WAS IT REALLY LESS THAN A MONTH AGO that I was miserable about the cold? You know how I said, whatever temperature it is outside, that’s what it is inside my unheated house?
I’ve got the opposite problem now, only worse. When I got back to East Hampton yesterday after a few days away, the temperature outside was in the 80s… but the thermometer in the living room, where all the windows had been closed, read 92. By opening the kitchen skylight and a few windows, and turning my trusty Vornado on full blast, I got it down to 88. But the misery of such heat provoked yet another crisis of confidence. What have I gotten myself into??
Since this is the seventh older property I’ve owned, I console myself with the knowledge that in the past, I’ve had similar crises of confidence about at least four of them, and I’m pretty sure it will all work out in the end. Meanwhile, air conditioning and heating are a distant dream. My renovation funds, after plumbing, electrical, landscape cleanup, kitchen and bathroom reno, are down to zero. I can’t move forward right away. I’m forced to do nothing. Can we construe that to be a good thing? I’ll be forced to carefully contemplate my next move, forced to adopt the Zen mindset of Sylvia Boorstein, author of Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There. Forced to swim in the bay just to cool off (had my first swim of the season yesterday, and it was delicious).
And I think a little garden therapy is in order. See below for photos of how the property looked last week, after two days of three guys crawling over it with chainsaws, chainsaws on poles, weed whackers and leaf blowers. Essentially, it’s the same; I’ve still got a dappled, shady half-acre with plenty of tree cover. But now I have room to plant underneath the canopy of oaks, hickories, sassafras, red maples, and cedars. There are still some large piles of leaves about, which I would leave in place to compost but for fear they harbor Lone Star ticks, the season’s latest itchy scourge.
Compare these photos to how it looked last winter. There were no leaves on the tall trees then, so it seemed fairly sunny — but note how the saplings that were springing up everywhere are, for the most part, gone. I spared dogwoods, but I think I have enough in the way of everything else.
One new issue is that the enclosing stockade fence is more visible, and I now understand what the books say about hiding the perimeter of a property to make it look larger. With the fence so clearly in view, one sees exactly where the property ends, and it seems less impressively vast. I’ll be obscuring that fence with shrubs and conifers in months to come, and perhaps tweaking the fence itself. An architect friend suggested slicing a few inches off the tops of the pickets for a straight-across, more custom look, or even removing every other picket, or creating some other pattern, for greater openness. Intriguing concept, yes? (If anyone knows of photos of creative treatments of garden-variety stockade fence panels, please send them my way; I haven’t been able to find any. My email address is on my ‘About’ page.)
Immediate next step: improve soil in a couple of small areas, and start a small perennial bed with easy shade plants dug up and brought down from upstate this past weekend, above — hostas, ferns, epimedium, hakonechloa, and a few blue flag iris — all now reposing in pots and looking no worse for the travel, except for the Japanese anemones, which have sadly collapsed and which I fear may take a while to establish, if they survive at all.
A little garden blogging therapy is in order, too. I’ve got three “Garden Inspiration” posts ready to go, from my travels this past weekend. I’ll be laying them on you shortly, so stay tuned.