Iced Tea on the Back Porch

This is the third August that has come around and I haven’t had to think about school. Instead of thinking on lesson plans and books and remembering kids’ names, I’m thinking on canning and freezing the garden’s produce, and sitting on the back porch with a glass of mint iced tea and enjoying these soon-to-be-glorious days of September.

Last summer we worked on the porch ceiling because the wood needed to be fixed before we could even think of putting a roof on top of it. We worked on it; I just didn’t document it, because, well, I wanted to have some nice photos to post about our wonderful, rustic back porch, just right for summer and mint iced tea.

Yeah, pride is a terrible sin…

I’ve never shied away from posting horrible photos of the cottage. You, dear reader, have seen pictures of holes in the floor, ugly plaster, dead mice in the walls, ancient electric wires, and rotten insulation. I believe in truth-in-blog-posting.

Mostly.

I’ve never shown you a picture of the back of the cottage.

The truth is, from the back it looks like an Appalachian Mountain Shack. This fact was brought home to me when we had to take photographs of the cottage from every angle for our insurance company. They didn’t want any pictures of the inside. The Beautiful Rooms that we’ve finished? Nope. They wanted photos of the outside. back of cottageOkay, so you can tell this was taken in the early spring. Actually, early spring, Last Year. Since then we have replaced, scraped, and painted some of the clapboard siding and fixed up the other stuff a little, but yes it’s still ugly. Although it does give you an idea of the scope of our problems. The mismatched windows belong to the basement workshop — not a high priority for remodeling; and what will we ever do with the cave there under the steps? Right now it’s a good place for garden tools…

We started with Mr. H.C.’s hard and fast rule — work from the top down. Replace the rotted boards on the roof. Put up new plywood and new drip edge. Take out unnecessary boards. Get rid of the spiders and wasps. Paint. And oh yes, put a new roof on the whole cottage.

These views made us consider a skylight or two, but that was rejected in favor of expediency and cost. Paint is cheaper. The new color is Benjamin Moore’s Segovia Red.

My sanding workshop around the back corner of the porch was in use again, as a door-stripping workshop. Lovely old French patio doors will eventually replace this ugly old metal door. It will be a great day when that old door goes on the trash heap.

But the work stopped when we discovered lead paint on the patio doors.  I don’t need any more dead brain cells, you know?

Now what was I saying?

So the porch is painted, the roof is fixed, but that ugly storm door is still there. So are Sliding Glass Doors # 5. And so is the ugly thirty-year-old indoor-outdoor carpet. Sigh. And the back of the cottage remains shack-like, with the top story painted and re-roofed, and the bottom floor ugly. (But the front is looking pretty good….)

At least no one sees the back of the cottage but the deer and the groundhogs. And they don’t care. And despite the unappealing nature of the photo above, these are views looking out from that ugly porch:

The skies and the birds and the green more than make up for the shabby carpet and the old screen door. And so does iced tea on the back porch while other people are in school…

17. Meanderings at Apple Hill

The birds have flown, the kitty is skittish, and the lazy days of summer are almost gone. Work on the cottage will continue, I know, but probably not with the same freedom of coming here each weekend, working, dreaming, and sitting on the porch.

20120806-075740.jpgOne of our favorite things to do in the mornings and evenings is to sit on the porch watching and listening to the birds. Our identification skills have improved greatly, thanks to my well-thumbed bird book, Birds of North America . We have seen bluebirds, orioles, finches, wrens, woodpeckers, thrushes — we have watched a mockingbird do a song and dance routine on the nearest telephone pole — we watched baby robins get pushed out of their nest one morning and soon they were hopping around the yard looking for their own worms — and we’ve watched the barn swallows soar and dip, eating insects at dusk. Learning to identify their songs has been such a pleasure. This weekend the bird songs have been replaced by the constant hum of cicadas, and the birds are missing. Not a single robin in the grass; no flash of cardinal red; no wood thrush calling its haunting song from deep in the woods; not even any mournful dove songs. All weekend the only birds we saw were two fat crows walking on the grass, and three unidentifiable birds sitting on the wire. I hope they are all just enjoying a week at the beach…

Friend Beth came to visit on Saturday evening and brought another suggestion for a kitty name — Moe. We’ll have to see if this one sticks… He seems very skittish, especially in the dark. Last night we were looking at the stars, and the shadow of a fox ran across the yard beyond the apple trees. “Look, there’s the fox!” I said excitedly to Michael, and the very same second the kitty took off running for the safety of the porch. There was fear in his eyes. He stays very close to us when we are outside, and he won’t go out on the back porch after dark by himself. He sleeps on the bed all night and snores! All this is most unusual behavior for an independent (ex)tomcat! The wounds on his face have almost healed, but he doesn’t seem to have forgotten. Now we are feeling very responsible for him, and it no longer feels okay to just enjoy him when we’re here. We are thinking he will be our indoor house cat in Pittsburgh this winter…

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A face only a mother could love…

We picked and ate our first apples this weekend:

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The red ones are Red Delicious — which is disappointing as they are no one’s favorite! The green one is as yet unknown; it wasn’t quite ripe and was a bit sour, but definitely edible. We’re thinking a yellow cooking apple — maybe Grimes Golden.

We went out later today and picked a few more.

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They don’t look or taste too bad for an old, unpruned tree.

We aren’t the only ones who think they aren’t too bad…These are two twin fawns we’ve been watching for a month or so; they’ve only recently started losing their spots. There is a groundhog who comes around also, but he’s too fast for my unskilled photography. As long as they don’t start climbing the trees…

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Sorry for the blurry shot–I guess National Geographic won’t be calling me for a wildlife photo shoot anytime soon!

We also have about a dozen pears on the young trees we planted this spring. Yes, this is gratification!!!

There were just small projects done this weekend. (It was just too hot for Michael to work in the attic!) I sanded and painted the back porch steps:

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I kept thinking of my grandfather’s phrase — like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Oh well…the entry to the back porch isn’t high on the priority list; I was just trying to keep the steps from decomposing over the winter. (Notice that I only showed you a picture of the nicely painted steps — the rest of the entry is just too horrible to photograph.)

And we now have numbers on our mailbox post — can’t have the pizza guy passing us by!

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Michael sanded and hung the door we found at the ReStore for ten dollars. This is the door that goes down four steps into the pantry/laundry room. (Clara’s pantry sign will hang at the top of it–see 10. Clara’s Kitsch.) I primed it, and now it will have to wait for its color until we choose red or green. I’m seeing this door as Red Delicious red. Somehow, I just can’t picture this door in Lime Twist… Anyone have thoughts?

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer everyone. I hope the birds get back safely from their vacations, and everyone gets to enjoy a sunset like this one in these last precious days of August…