Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Testimonial to the cabin that Finn built

I was in the market for a wall tent when I came across Finn and the cutest little cabin I ever saw. Finn was an acquaintance, so I asked him what the structure was. It was positioned up on a trailer and he'd obviously just pulled up at the Saturday craft market where I was headed to sell my lavender goods. Finn's response; "It's a tiny little house, you should step inside." Remember when Dorothy ran into the snake oil salesman on the road who later turned out to be the Wizard of Oz? This was me that day...I was in the market to find me that day six years ago, and this cabin has been part of my journey, but better still it has become my home, a place where I have found myself. I bought the cabin as a playhouse for myself and as shelter; the only shelter and shade to be had on a 20 acre parcel of land in the mission valley. For a year prior, my then husband, the two dogs and myself would continue our hand at trying to subdue the acreage I was able to purchase with money my mother left me on her death. It was difficult that first year. It was an alfalfa field, wide open to every element, not a lick of shade from even one tree, no out buildings, nothing. I used to set up a triangle piece of canvas much like a Bedouin tent next to the creek for all of us to crawl under, hide from the 100 degree heat and have lunch. The cabin sat out front of our house in town for a couple months before we could coordinate moving it up to the land. It was that brief period of time that I came to understand the luxury of having a 'room of one's own'. I would sit out there for hours, reading, crafting lavender, inviting my friends to stop in and have tea at my playhouse. Meanwhile, Finn was building me another; a basic shell I could place in the backyard that I could fill with the expanding back stock of my expanding lavender business. I spent many hours out there in my studio. And our little family would go to the cabin on the weekends. Once the cabin was situated on the land (and when you commission one from Finn, I highly recommend you request the moving team of Gary Delp of Heritage Timbers and Finn himself - honestly, it was entertainment and fun that is rarely encountered but long remembered) the entire dynamic of the place changed. We could cook lunch, we could nap on the single bunk, we could spend the night, sheltered from the dew, mosquitos, roving coyotes, and even winter winds. But one of my favorite things was the shade cast by even a small building out on that prairie. With it set next to the creek, after 2pm the block of shade grew long as the day progressed. So we set farm chore schedules akin to the Nearings of the 50's and were rewarded with long cool cabin-cast shade, the song of the creek and gazes of the grand Mission mountains through lazy lidded eyes. Lifetimes have occurred in the years since I acquired the cabin; a divorce after 17 years, leaving my house and gardens in town, a massive crop loss, a mid-life crisis... I have lived in many apartments but have never neglected to visit my cabin for an overnite stay. For awhile, when I could not have my dog in a couple of the apartments I rented, the cabin became the place where I got my doggie fix. And now it turns out that the first home I ever bought just happens to be this 7x12 one room cabin. When the shit hit the fan; my back stock lavender dwindled as did any and all surplus income, and then I was evicted from my apartment, it dawned on me that as it was all bought and paid for (Thanks Mom!), the cabin was the only thing that made sense. My religious weekend sojourns to it had proved to me that I could exist there. I had downsized my entire life, become quite used to living with less with each apartment I rented. So in October 2012 I moved in. And I realize, that I have not been this happy and content for some time. This is my home sweet home. I measured the inside when I was trying to figure out the way my necessary things would fit. At 6.5 x 11.5 feet it is just shy of 75 square feet. She is, with her arched roof, 6 feet tall. The slight arch makes even taller folk than my 5 foot stature feel comfortable. The wood that lines her insides is warm toned and Finn gave all the nail holes exacting attention with little half round wood caps. There are ample shelves, and storage space neath the bed. The single bunk is nestled at one end, next to a big window and has it's own skylight. There is another skylight above the kitchen. A small wood stove tucked into a corner, is, in winter, more stove than this space needs. Even on a 10 degree day, it warms to 85 degrees in a couple hours. When I let the fire die, heat holds at 60 degrees for hours on end. I cook marvelous meals on the 2 burner propane stove. I wash dishes in the bathroom size sink with water I haul in. It drains into a bucket under the sink. I use the grey water on my trees. There is ample storage under the sink. I utilize a cooler for a fridge. I have a bucket system toilet in another outbuilding. The small footprint of it is located in a large swale, close to a small perennial creek. It is obvious that the wild things rule here. And I would have it no other way. I maintain a low and quiet profile as much as possible to avoid disturbing those who were here long before me. And to bear witness to Nature. The cabin, with its windows to every direction, including up, is like a hunting blind. I see a lot and am unseen. What I notice most since I began visiting 7 years ago is that I can no longer abide noise-especially white noise. Trains, traffic, TV, clanging pipes, forced air heaters, electric gadgets and appliances, ticking clocks, dripping faucets, buzzing space cabin has none of it. I have traded them all in for: a crackling fire on a cold, Montana winter's night, the creek outside my door, a caroling coyote chorus roving the valley, a multitude of birds and occasionally , my dog going ballistic at an errant mouse up in the ceiling.
Lori Parr Writing to you from a lone prairie in St. Ignatius

Monday, January 7, 2013

cheating in the garden

I helped a friend with her garden last summer. She's a mom and the garden had gotten away from her as gardens are wont to do once it turns spring in these parts.
For 15 years I owned and operated a sole proprietorship garden maintenance service. It has since morphed into a consulting and design business. But I am always available to help maintain a garden.

After years of fine tooth combing gardens with methodical and meticulous attention to detail I have learned many tricks that are at once practical and effective. That day my friend said she had 3 weeks to get the garden looking its best. The owner of the house and garden was coming to town; and it was she who planted this garden some time ago when she was living in the house.
We spent two hours, hard at it that day, and from my assessment; there was at least ten more hard hours to get this garden up to snuff. I wasn't sure my friend could find the time, being a full time mom with all she's got goin' on besides...So My parting advice; call me if you get in a bind, otherwise cheat. She laughed at this idea, but I'm gonna share with you some professional tips on how to whip a garden into shape, even if you have less than three weeks to do it. And it's totally cheating, there's no skill required. Take a before picture because you will certainly see the difference after.
Top 5 cheaters tricks:

1. Prioritize the projects. Which section do you see always, or bothers you most? Start there. Be methodical. Do not move onto another section until this one is finished. This is the sure fire way to see the results of the time you spent. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and there is nothing like that to encourage you to continue. 2. Determine time limits. Sure you can spend 6-8 hours in a garden per day, but that is gruelling. Plan for 3 hour chunks. And to keep from getting exasperated, determine 3 different tasks (see following) that you can work on. That way, when you get bored with one you can change it up a little. You can also split the time you spend, say in your 3 hour time allotment spending an hour doing each project. 3. Quick, go thru the entire garden pull out or cut any and everything dry and dead. This includes last year's plants that didn't get cleaned out, dead branches in shrubs, and any dead tree, etc. You will be pleased at how quickly the garden 'looks' cleaned up by doing this first. 4. Next, stand back and assess the weeds that are predominant in the entire garden. Which one do you notice first? It is probably one that detracts from the garden plants themselves; either it is as tall as the blooming plants, gone to seed, or is sprawling in any space not taken up by a preferred plant. Put yourself on a mission to eradicate just that one weed from every where it doesn't belong. If you water the entire area thoroughly and then use a digging fork (like a pitch fork only sturdier) to loosen the weeds before pulling, this project will go fast! 5. Clean up the edges. If the garden border meets a lawn, an instant fix with immediate results is to mow the law. Trim the edge of the lawn where it meets the flower bed. Or, take a straight edged shovel and perpendicularly, cut a nice clean edge along the border. If it is a sidewalk or other hard scape that meets the garden border, meticulously weed that section, which will fluff up the mulch, which can then be raked smooth.