Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fun with pruners

Today we'll be reporting on the newest crafty venue here at Hugs: the back yard deck!

This is the classic North American house thing, isn't it?  A private open-air space elevated, if only by a step, from the rest of the back yard.  It used to be that houses were built with front porches big enough to let you sit and enjoy a cool drink in the shade and chat with your neighbours as they passed (which is why we put a front porch on the house almost as soon as we got it, because we like old style stuff.)  Decks on the other hand are better suited to tranquil communing with nature and a book, or cooking on a barbecue, or drinking beer on a hot summer night with friends.  And, since the slats of a deck tend to have gaps between them, for losing your knitting needles down into the abyss below.

(it is for this reason that I especially love a porch, and also, why I am probably buying some sort of outdoor carpet for the deck.)

Now that we have a deck, even though it's not actually finished, we can finally reach with ease the canopy of this odd shrubby tree that was old when we bought the house more than 20 years ago and is still limping along the same as ever.

This thing produces a ton of new shoots and foliage every spring, and then the most gorgeous blossoms, and then without warning a huge chunk of branches just wither and the whole thing looks terrible till early fall when it pulls itself together for one last burst of energy and presents us with unattractive, squishy orange berries.

However, much as I harbor resentment for these longstanding disappointments, I do appreciate the tree for

a/staying alive in spite of age plus endless onslaughts by raccoons and squirrels, and

b/providing much-needed privacy screening.

If only it didn't have so very many dead bits.

I mentioned, I think, the fact that raccoons moved into our garage and made it their personal toilet, but perhaps not that Pete was able to rescue from it the really good pruners I bought him a few years back.   I am SO glad he did that and also, that he told me where he put them afterward, because I love pruning off the dead stuff from a tree, or the stickie-outie bits that always catch you in the eye as you pass.  Pete also loves pruning and we actually tussled over who got to use them the other day, so probably we need two.  But!  how thrilling, even when thwarted by a competitive spouse, to be able to prune 20 years of dry crusty branchlets off our ugly tree!

It's probably worth mentioning that Ray and I designed the deck around our original lilac tree, which I might regret at some point in the future, or just next week.

Already, birds sitting in the lilac's branches have made the new decking their toilet, and as soon as the flowers bloom we'll have bees visiting as well, none of which you want happening directly over and around your head as you recline with a book and a cup of tea.  But if you regard this particular deck as a clean space to step out onto for lighting a barbecue and snipping off some herbs, then having the lilac tree scenting it is exactly what you want.

In other garden news:  yesterday, after a heavy rain, I noticed that the interesting droopy evergreen tree in our front yard had orange gunk all over it:

Close up, this stuff is uglier:

I may never eat dried apricots again.

It seems this is 'cedar apple rust', a two-stage disease that produces spores from these big orange casings on infected cedars after a heavy rain, then sends them on the wind to infect nearby apple trees.  Or to mountain ash trees, of which we have a rather large specimen looming over the back of the house and roof.  (in fact, though it is a messy tree with more squishy orange berries that get all over the back yard, that particular tree is the primary view from my office, so I don't want anything to happen to it.)

I don't know whether this was the right thing to do, but I used the pruners to snip off every affected branch above the fungus zone right over an open bag so the spores would have no chance to catch the wind, and then I tied the bag tight and binned it.  Next up, I think we are supposed to spray our tree with copper to try to control the problem and prevent further spore events.

Yuck, huh?

Back to the deck: as I type, Al is sanding cedar strips that he and Ray will use to custom build trellis inserts wherever we don't have pressure-treated planks mostly butted together, apart from slim air vents in between.

The use of cedar for the trellis - he deemed other woods too flimsy for the amount of ripping required for the design we came up with, and/or too short-lived for railing use - is causing Ray physical pain because we are going to use a solid stain on the deck.

It's one thing to solid stain pressure treated wood, but you just don't do that to cedar! If anything, you use a clear stain, but normally, around here at least, you just let it weather to a silvery grey and then let moss grow on it and when it falls down after 25 years you replace it with new cedar if you can afford it. And you might not be able to, because cedar is the most expensive wood you can use for outdoor projects.

It really is gorgeous, isn't it?

And Al is sanding every piece so it's smooth on the sides with slightly broken edge.

Pretty much every day Ray asks me if we really, REALLY want a white trellis and I say Yep, and I know he's chalking up another church visit to pray for forgiveness for putting solid stain on cedar.  I should probably be praying for forgiveness too but I am pushing forward with solid stain because I want a more formal garden there and after 20 years in this house I think I've earned the back yard of my dreams.

He had to use cedar on the front porch railings too, and tried hard to persuade me to at least consider a black stain that lets the grain show through, to the point of bringing me a sample of cedar with a black stain that lets the grain show through.  Suffice it to say that when it comes to staying true to the house's 1940s urban architecture I have no heart, and still said Nope.

(actually, I laughed and said nope.  I did say I have no heart!)

And that's me summed up for the recent past and the forseeable future: all deck all the time with a bit of springtime gardening around the edges.

desperately want to reach that dead branch at the top!!

How have you been enjoying the change in seasons?

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