Seven years ago this summer, we were busy settling into our new home. The minute we first laid eyes on the pictures of this house and property, we knew it was the place we were supposed to be - our forever home - the place that had taken shape in our minds and hearts through years of daydreaming and I-wishing. It was love at first sight and it continues to be for us - even after several years spent maintaining, repairing and making it our own.
Summer 2011, has been all about outdoor improvements at Prairie Wood, sometimes to the exclusion of other things -- like knitting, cooking and blogging.
It all began with the removal of several damaged or dead trees. Don't worry -- there are plenty of trees left -- both healthy and dead, and some in between. MFH was busy for weeks cutting and stacking wood with the chainsaw, and then finishing with the stump grinder. He just loves to make sawdust with power tools and equipment!
Not long after that, MFH's brother and nephew, Scott and Joey, decided to take the train down from Chicago for a little father-son vacation visit with us over the Fourth of July. I'm not sure it was the vacation they imagined, but they were kind enough to pitch to shovel and shuttle endless loads of ground-up tree stumps and limbs into the woods. And of course, the temps were well into the high 90s by then! They did get in some pool time, dinners out and a few hours of satellite TV. Thanks again guys! Come back anytime ... say ... next summer!
Denise, MFH's sister, has spent enough time working in our gardens for the past few years that she now has her own successful garden business, The Garden Keeper. She and her crew were here again this summer and spent countless hours -- also during some of the hottest days of the summer. She makes sure our gardens look planned and well-tended, rather than the hodgepodge of neglect they would suffer at my two hands alone.
The next step was to install an automatic watering system to replace the flawed human system we've used for six summers. I readily admit that I was the flaw, possessing neither the will nor the patience to drag hoses from sprinkler to sprinkler or stand in the heat to give plants a shower! After the new hose and automatic sprinkler system was laid, Denise and her crew showed up again to spread mulch over all the irrigation tubing. Now it is such a joy to look out the window from inside my air-conditioned kitchen and watch the watering magically change from one zone to another. There are more areas to be added to the sprinkler system, but we are much closer to maintaining a cool and serene landscape, without having to listen to my whining.
The final stage of summer improvements for this year is almost complete. Several areas of new patio have been poured to connect the pool deck with the fire pit area, extend both sides of the pool house and up to the backdoor. The pros came in to pour the concrete, but only after MFH pulled up every stone of the long, lovely but uncomfortale pathway I found difficult to navigate.
And last but not least, since many of us have found it almost impossible to make a graceful exit from the pool with nothing to hold onto, we finally added one of those shiny, sturdy handrails. No one knows why one wasn't installed when the pool was built by the previous owner.
The plans for adding onto the pool house are still under discussion, but we do agree the simple addition of patio areas to tie everything together was a huge improvement. I would really, really, really like to add a screened porch on one side. What can I say, the sun doesn't like me, but the bugs sure do! And, of course, we'd like a small, simple outdoor kitchen someday too. I see years and years of more summer work ... and fun to come.
Tomorrow is Labor Day and it always amazes me how the heat and humidity seem to mysteriously disappear with the holiday. We'll close the pool this week, but that's not the end of the season for us. We still look forward to spending more time outside during the pleasant autumn days and nights -- a few campfires, some roasted marshmallows and s'mores, the neighborhood potluck in October and maybe a few brick oven pizzas or artisan breads lay ahead. I'll be back to cooking and knitting before you know it!
Seven summers have flown by, but we still feel like our forever house is really our vacation home and we continue to settle in quite nicely. Prairie Wood was well worth the wait ... especially when the work and upkeep mean more time to enjoy here with family and friends.