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Archive for Jan, 2022

23 January: moving mulch

Sunday, 23 January 2022

At home

Our mission today was to move Soil Energy via buckets in the van, through the next door easement road to our back lot. Soil Energy is a planting mix that has actually had its name changed to Lawn Starter, but Peninsula Landscape Supply still calls it Soil Energy because that’s the name people know. I think Lawn Starter has a little more manure in it than the previous mixture, based on the smell.

The pile this morning…

I filled buckets, Allan loaded, then while he drove around the block I would take one wheelbarrow load out through our garden and meet him at the south end about 260 feet away.

When he got to the easement road with the first load, two gear shed trucks were in by the shed.

I felt a sense of doom, would we be unable to deliver our soil today to the back garden? But the owner was very nice and said he and his crew had other things to do today, so we could use the road without inconveniencing them, before they start to work on crab pot sorting and other important gear shed things. I said perfect, we can get it done! Now the push was on!

Backed in and ready to unload

The crabbers will lose this pleasant view from their work space, and room to maneuver crab pots, if a huge building goes up on this field.

In through our south east gate:

I had texted Our Kathleen, who was going to stop by for a visit and to bring us some cardboard and newspaper, that we would not have time to even stop for a brief chat. It was a PUSHPUSHPUSH day. Bless her heart, and I do not mean that in the sardonic Southern way, we returned to our front driveway after one bucket delivery trip and found the pile of cardboard and newspaper delivered anyway. This was fortuitous because I needed it badly to lay on the soil under an old willow tree whose roots and old trunk made a perfect edging for a raised bed of some shade plants. There are still remnants of ivy roots there that I wish to discourage by smothering.

I lost track of how many van trips we made with all our 27 4 or 5 gallon buckets full. I think it was at least five trips. On one walk back with the wheelbarrow, I heard a cat fight on the other side of the compost bins. By the time I got there, only Skooter, the victor, remained.

Allan was fortunate to see this cute dog on walkabout near the gear shed.

Some crocuses had opened for us to admire in the front garden near the mulch pile.

Hellebores will flower soon.

Clematis ‘Freckles’ by the garage:

Plant table in the Bogsy Wood:

Befores, durings, and afters in the willow grove:

Eastern bed
Middle bed
Western bed
Middle beds
Most of the cardboard is under there.

The cherished frog bog is on the other side of the fence.

On the final trip, we left some buckets undumped where I am going to raise up some plants in an already planted bed.

It was almost dark for my last walk of the day back to the house.

There is still plenty of soil energy left to move, but the rest of it can be done by me in the wheelbarrow to areas that require more weeding and slow work than just dumping in new beds. This sets Allan free to get back to his door project and other things that amuse him more than hauling dirt. I appreciated the help, I would probably only have two small beds done if I had been just wheelbarrowing the long, sodden, squishy path to the willow grove.

The mulch pile tonight:

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Saturday, 22 January 2022

At home

Allan started working on his door project, then stopped to help finish the pond. Well, actually he did it all from that point on, although I had dug out another small wheelbarrow of sand to begin with. There was still water in the pond hole.

He went back to his door project ….

…while I messed around with planting some bog plants (I can’t even remember what the balls of mud are that came out of the grey tub.)

Allan rounded off the stern to his arbor-top tribute to Chinook canoes.

I arranged for some mulch to be delivered and tried to spend my last hour before it arrived by digging up some hollies and some wild running tall grass from the willow grove. I couldn’t budge most of it.

Impossible holly will have to be thwarted by clipping.

Some of the holly is outside our alleged property line (with which you know by now that we disagree). If it is not my holly, I guess I don’t have to try to control its noxious weediness??

Skooter got himself stuck in the Catio again (by asking to go indoors for a snack).

And then the mulch arrived.

I started moving it by wheelbarrow. It is a long way back to the willow grove from front driveway…at least 500 feet round trip. I wished we could have had some of the soil dumped on the southeast corner easement road…but there is too much gear shed stuff in the way of backing a truck in.

Although I was too tired to appreciate the garden much, I did notice this Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’.

The poor sad lawn is still trying to suck off my shoes.

After his door project came to a stopping point, Allan implemented an idea I had had: filling all our four to five gallon buckets and stacking them in the van….

…then very carefully driving around the corner to the easement road, where the van can be got much closer to our gate by wending around totes and pots in a way that van with trailer cannot do.

I had made only eight wheelbarrow trips by the time he drove out back. I really had wanted to see how long and how many miles ten trips would make. But it was getting dark, so I stopped to dump out the buckets he brought in the southeast gate.

His method of moving soil (which he says I should take credit for thinking of) covered half again as much ground and took half as long as my wheelbarrowing across the mucky soggy lawn.

Results of the van soil moving method:

Results of twice as long wheelbarrowing time:

There will still be some wheelbarrowing. This part of the project is supposed to be mine. Yet when I had tried to load buckets of mulch into the van, I found I was too exhausted to pick them up.

I did a map my walk of the eight wheelbarrow loads, which included the time spent dumping the many buckets from the van.

It’s just possible some mulch will be left over from the willow grove project and could be put in the front garden, requiring a blissfully short trip.

I will be depressed if we lose our view of the sunset over Cape Disappointment.

After dark, Allan painted the door that will replace a disintegrated door between us and the gear shed’s back yard. It’s handy to be able to step through a door there for bindweed control along the fence. He has added reinforcements to the back so this old door should last a few years.

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Friday, 21 January 2022

At home

We are due for about seven days of welcome dry weather. I hope the lawn will dry, because I need to get soil for the new beds and it is still very hard to wheelbarrow to the south end.

I started by getting bog plants out of the big grey tub, with Allan’s help. They were heavy.

We had an audience.

Skooter got himself stuck in the Catio again.

Then we rolled the tub on a handcart to the west end of the bridged swale, where it solved the problem of the fence being high off the ground in summer. I had the underneath of the fence somewhat unsuccessfully blocked with a mixture of rocks, concrete chunks, and driftwood so that visiting small dogs could not run under in summer. Not that small dogs visit as often as I would like them to.

As we pulled the rocks and chunks out from under water, Allan commented, “Great time to do this when the water is high.”

I admit that when it came to leveling the tub, I thought about waiting a few days till the water disappeared. But then I thought of the convenience of being able to dip water from the swale into the tub and persevered.

Despite our efforts, it ended up not quite level when full of water. Rocks along the front (when the swale water recedes) and bog plants inside will hide this. At a time of evaporation in summer, we will set it to perfection. It can’t be dug into the ground because its handy drain valve is close to the bottom.

Last night while watching an excellent zoom lecture by Loree Bohl (Danger Garden), who was the speaker for this month’s meeting of the Portland chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, it finally registered with me that the shiny metal version of our grey plastic container is called a “stock tank”. She loves the metal ones. So do I, but we somehow acquired the grey one for free.

Anyway, I hope that if the bog frogs outside our fence wake up to a bulldozer one day, they will hop inside our fence and see that I am trying to make new homes for them.

Allan put some little metal tabletops onto the southeast gate as a stop the eye measure…

…and then put up the lattices that we got for free when a friend was moving. (I need to add one more spray of paint on a nice day). New ones, left, below.

I love the way the lattice looks on the fence by the wayback sit spot, making it feel enclosed more than with just the long shutters that were already there, and yet you can see into the willow grove. Most satisfying.

I started on the next pond/bog project, with the pond form that Patti gave us. I want to sink it in by the garden rowboat. I dug and dug and after two hours, this was as far as I had gotten.

I was discouragingly slow, partly because I was afraid of falling in the hole or the adjacent pond. Also, what FOOL put landscape fabric under rocks around the boat?! That would be me 11 years ago. I used to think it was good under a rocky area or path. I know better now… In my opinion, the only place it might be good is on top of a porous chair or table to turn it into a plantscape.

Coincidentally, in the evening I read this passage about gravel paths in Paige Dickey’s excellent new book, Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again.

Even though Allan was busy trying unsuccessfully to fix his vintage air compressor …

…he showed up at the right moments to wheelbarrow over six loads of brown sand out to the willow grove. I was pleased to be generating some much needed DIRT with this project.

It was high tide in Baker Bay two blocks south, and it was also high tide as I reached the bottom of the hole I was digging.

The water was still rising at dusk.

I did not achieve my goal of getting the pond form in place today. I’m no good at getting down INTO the hole, which is what is necessary at the end, so Allan will help with the final scooping out of the sides. He also got ready for his next project, involving this old door.

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Yesterday, I spent most of the day reading David Kynaston’s wonderful new history book, On the Cusp, part of his Tales of a New Jerusalem Series, which are all amazing. I long for the next one. He’s about my age so, since this new book covers just a few months of 1962, and he intends to write his detailed British history through 1979, he had better keep on task! And I hope I live long enough to read them.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Susie’s garden

In my constant thirst for more dirt, I was inspired by the weather being simply cold and unpleasant, but not pouring rain, to suggest we get some more dirt from the pile at the bottom of Susie and Bill’s driveway.

Pulling it by hand into buckets works well for watching out for weed roots, as does only filling the buckets half full so they are not too heavy. The pile looked slightly better after than it did before. There is still some usable dirt in there, brown sand that is useful for building up a solid base on a garden bed. We might get more later.

I think we can bring the planting alongside the driveway down almost to the street…when work season officially begins in about a month.

Bulbs are not emerging yet in the main garden.

Long Beach

After an errand to the bank, we detoured out to the Boldstad beach approach, where the water alongside is even deeper.

Patti’s garden

Because we have our work gear mostly unpacked from the van, I had no biscuit for Stella! I felt terrible! Patti saved the day by giving me some biscuits, which I pretended were from us.

Patti and I had a chat while Allan installed a gate, which was the working purpose of our visit, and I removed dead annuals from the window boxes and slightly tidied the garden bed. The weather was tiresomely cold.

We are being extra cautious even outdoors because the Omicron variant has exploded here, with new cases in the 300s this week and rising rapidly day by day. Note window boxes in background, above, and below (before final tidying).

At home

We parked on the access road and schlepped the buckets of dirt into the willow grove.

That’s as close as we can get.

I need several yards of mulch!!
The water was high again on the lawn.

To my surprise, the new stepping stones were still walkable in the bridged swale.

Earlier this week, I cleaned some ashes out of the remnant of an old burn barrel that was in that spot when we bought the place.

This gave me an idea that I will finish cleaning it out and see if it holds water. It looks good as water within water, and I’ve been thinking about sinking a pond form into the slightly deeper west end of the swale to hold some water all the time. I’m finding that idea even more intriguing now in my mission to create more frog habitat.

Having spent yesterday sorting out and storing almost all the leftover lumber, Allan did a bit more shed tidying and took some photos of the cats, Nickel outdoors…

…and Skooter indoors.

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18 January: dirt

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Hamamelis (witch hazel) in the front garden smells like apricots.

We made the dump run that has been brewing, with an ever increasing trailer load of branches, since we started the front fence project. On the way, we picked up library books and I removed unsightly leaves from hellebores at the library’s entry garden.

Small fuchsia plants are in the empty looking areas.

Allan had added some more debris to the trailer this morning.

The dump has a stumpery.

On the way back through downtown Long Beach, I noticed a freeze blasted Melianthus major in Fifth Street Park and just had to stop.

I did not pull the weeds. We really aren’t planning to work till mid February. It was hard to resist, though, and it does feel good to view the parks as our territory again.

The purpose of emptying the trailer was to go to Susie’s garden and bucket up some of a pile of dirt, probably mostly brown sand, that was by the street by her driveway. It was surprisingly not weedy and would be useful to build up a willow grove garden bed. We included rubble because Bob Nold’s great gardening book, High and Dry, recommends using rubble to increase the height and volume of a garden bed.

We parked on the gear shed access road to move the buckets into the south garden, very convenient now that we have a path cleared to our gate.

I had enough for a layer on that bed, which will then be topped off with some good mulch, when I acquire some.

Two friends visited who wanted to see the frog bog that is under threat, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. With each, I walked around the block and into the new garden area. They loved the look of the frog pond and marveled at the standing water all around and on the proposed building site. And they both enjoyed and admired the new fence and garden area on which we have been working so hard.

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Monday, 17 January 2022

At home

While Allan installed the six painted arbor toppers, two per arbor…

….I occupied myself making a paver path and scraping the top layer of leaf mold out of the areas of the swales where water had receded, then adding it to the new garden beds.

To get more soil, I decided that I will do a project soon that I’ve been thinking of for awhile. I am going to connect the deep path swale with the metal path swale across the lawn. The connection will run along where the pile of branches is temporarily stashed, then make a diagonal deep narrow cut across the lawn, narrow enough to not need much bridging:


I can do all but the connecting lawn section so that I still have a way to wheelbarrow soil to the new willow grove beds for now. Depending on how deep it is, I might even be able to use sideways H blocks for stepping stones. It all depends on how many tree roots I run into. The dug up sod can be used to raise the lowest bit of lawn, and the sandy soil will go out to the new beds. That’s the plan, will see how it plays out.

Allan used some 2x4s to make a walkway to get out into the frog swale and retrieve four pieces of driftwood that we had put out there for decoration, at the line that tax sifter says is the edge of our property. We don’t have the money to argue with the survey that put our property at least ten feet further in. Our undeveloped lot was recently assessed and taxes increased based on its large size and it will be so until 2023 when I can ask it be lowered because it is theoretically not as big as tax sifter says (80×117).

Below, the two vertical posts behind Allan are where tax sifter says our south line is. His photos show that we would own the swale if tax sifter were correct (but the port manager told us “Taxsifter is WRONG!”). Of course, we wish we owned the swale so we could protect the frogland.

I needed the posts to do a different thing, a visual reminder not to fall sideways into the deepest part of the bridged swale.

We did some decorating with the white buoy rope, after I wodged some trunks and broken posts under the willow arch to hold it up. If developers come along the very outside of what they claim is our property line, they may aggressively cut the willows that go through the fence, and I don’t want the arch to fall down…their surveyors already knocked down one arch, which is what got me going on this whole fence project.

I am very fond of this willow arch.

I just love the walk through the three arbors. The brilliant idea came just because I was too lazy to dig out all the fence posts. First arch, viewed from a Bogsy wood path:

Go through and turn left:

Second arch:

Turn left to third arch:

Now you are back in the bogsy wood, through the arch with summer dry metal paths to the left (stepping ”stones” are metal water vault tops, underwater in winter)…

…and the way back sit spot is to the right.

But one more thing before calling the fence and arbors done: I kind of think the east gate to the gear shed is too see-through. We have three small metal table tops that Allan will attach to them tomorrow by adding a crosspiece, perhaps. I’d wire them on, but if the wire rusted, they might drop on someone’s foot.

Another imminent project for me: I am going to move a big oval grey heavy plastic water tub out to the willow grove to add some frog habitat. I was struggling to pull rooted water plants and dip water out of it today when I remembered….it has a drain plug. It is now emptying overnight! It’s not a tub that I keep fill to the brim like a decorative pond, so getting water to it won’t be such a hard task.

opening the drain was not easy

In the evening, Allan showed me a photo he took of some insect eggs (?) on one of the old fence posts. They look like plastic, but he swears they are the real deal and he’s not spoofing me. I am going to ask on an insect identification group.

Tomorrow: Not a day of rest…a dump run, getting some dirt and rubble from Susie, and then some rest.

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Sunday, 16 January 2022

At home (mostly)

Allan installed the final five broken tool fence toppers.

Boards for not compressing soil

He announced at two PM that the fence project was done, and turned his attention to related projects, starting with the sawing of the stump that would block a wheelbarrow from easily getting through the east gate. This is quite time consuming without a big chain saw, but too small a project to ask a friend with a chainsaw to help us out.

A second cut on the inside allowed the gate to swing open wider.

Allan installed the fence post for the third arbor…the last of the fence posts to go in, about two long months (with many winter weather interruptions) of fence building. I already had the hole dug except for the last couple of inches.

He started to measure the arbor tops, the last thing that needs to be built as part of the willow grove project.

I was digging up new garden beds, making an extension of the bark path, raking sodden leaves out of the bridged swale to use as mulch, and wishing I had a big pile of soil with which to finish the beds so I can start planting assorted plants that have been awaiting this project.

While getting some coir out of a water barrel by the front driveway, I noticed the difference on a Melianthus major (‘Purple Haze’, probably) that was half covered with a big upturned plastic pot during the recent frost.

On the way to the willow grove with a load of rough compost, I noticed that my Olearia traversii (I think) had doubled in size over the winter.

The parent plant has gotten enormous in the seven or eight years, from a gallon pot. The lower leaves tend to yellow in winter. I have two more propagated for if I need screening plants on the south fence.

I lowered a slippery path by the west gate and applied the last bag of bark.

Allan took a short break to deliver more copies of his boating book to Time Enough Books at the port. He saw signs of spring and lots of mysterious markings on the sidewalk.

I found two more tool heads to mount on the fence, so the fence project actually got done just before sunset.

In the last light, I dug up the patch of Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag iris that did not bloom) out of the bridged swale, something I’ve meant to do for ten years. It is a noxious weed here, one so pushy that the state weed control folks spray it when it appears in waterways. (There is a lot of it growing and flowering down by MaryAnn street, by the tidelands. Mine never flowered because it was in deep shade.)

I have some good stepping stones to put in the swale tomorrow. Where the irises were will be a path (in dry weather) leading from the Bogsy Wood into the willow grove and back out again.

As I write this well after dark, Allan is sawing the ends of the arbor toppers by artificial light next to his shed. Tomorrow, installing the six boards should be fairly easy (says the non carpenter).

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Saturday, 15 January 2022

At home

I tried moving a load of compost, bunny poop and coir out to the willow grove but got stuck in the soft lawn halfway there. (I learned that a cold day is not good for fishing coir out of a barrel of water, where it had been soaking to fluff up. I stopped trying when my hands turned blue with cold.)

I gave up on the compost journey for awhile and started to weed more grass roots out of one of the two central garden beds by the new south gate.

Outside the gate is the frog pond which I have been fretting over daily as it is under threat by development.

I’ve thought of using a pond form that we have to make a small round artificial pond inside the fence, but it would be hard to schlep water out to it.

(What should be done if development occurs is to preserve the swale. The Shorebank building has three swales, the Willapa Behavioral Health building has at least two, and rain gardens are the hip, enlightened, and ecologically wise thing to do…not a culvert and road, which will do little to absorb the tidal water that rises through the ground from early autumn through mid-spring. There has been NO communication to the residents of our block, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see bulldozers in frogland with no warning.)

Allan got all of the gates hinged and latched. He cleverly brought a table out with him this time. He wished he had thought of this earlier in the project.

The ”beach gate”.

By the newly hinged west gate, I had thoughts about a willow stump that I have been pondering whether or not to keep. It speaks to me of resilience.

I dragged a driftwood log halfway to its new home and then Allan put it in place.

Allan moved the crab pot stack when he finished the east gate.

I had a new mission, to put some narrow stop-the-eye driftwood and branches by the east gate. While collecting some fallen branches from Alicia’s lawn, I admired the view into the spacious new garden area.

The view from the other side of the swale is also satisfactory.

A work in progress

Allan helped me get a big piece of driftwood out of the south catio. I had jammed it in behind a shelf so well that I couldn’t lift it out.

Skooter got himself trapped in there temporarily.

When I took a photo of the driftwood and sticks (which is also a rather messy branch and stick storage area for now), the flash went off and caught the raindrops which had been falling in a way that didn’t feel like rain but got everything wet. Eventually, shrubs will stop the eye here.

I slowly bucketed the compost from the wheelbarrow to the new beds. Allan had started mounting the broken tool heads, so the new beds were getting compacted. Things are not always being done in the right order because I don’t have time to wait for the fence to be done before preparing ground. Staycation is flitting by too fast.

We almost achieved the goal of getting the fence done today. So close! What held it up was Allan couldn’t find enough strapping tape to put the last five tool heads up. He has found it (after dark) so tomorrow, the fence will be done and just maybe the arbor post and tops, too.

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Friday, 14 January 2022

At home

With beautiful weather but a still sodden lawn, I pushed a wheelbarrow of cardboard out to the willow grove. Before I got there, I saw deer through the fence next door on Alicia’s lawn.

I thought they were ever so cute, till I got out to the willow grove and found deer prints INSIDE the fence.

I spent what felt like half an hour searching for a breach. Did they jump one of the five foot areas or did they wiggle underneath one spot that had a gap that surely a deer would not fit through? Finally, I went back to Allan’s shed (seeing deer prints on inner garden paths, too) to tell him that they must have jumped…and he told me he had been out there before me and found out he had left one of the gates open all night.

It was a relief to know the fence hadn’t failed us. The deer must have had a wonderful night nibbling throughout the garden. They would not do much noticeable damage at this time of year…not like eating all the roses the day before a garden tour.

When Allan arrived at the willow grove again, with a wheelbarrow load of tools, he removed the last two crosspieces of the old fence…

…leaving the posts to be arbors.

I brought two wheelbarrow loads of compost out to the willow grove for the biggest big bed on the east side and added it on top of cardboard all the way to the fence…

…and figured out I need at least four yards of soil, minimum, to finish the various new beds. That will be a lot of hard wheelbarrowing or bucketing. I hope I’ll have enough compost to make it less than four yards.

I then occupied myself digging grass out of future garden beds in the center.

Maybe tomorrow the lawn will be dryer and I can bring more compost.

It’s dryer than yesterday.

There is lots of rubble underground. I stacked broken bricks at the bottom of the fence and realized with with another panel of wire, the fence could become a narrow gabion wall. It’s an idea to ponder. It might be so heavy, it would need flying buttresses to hold it up. Of course, only if frogland is destroyed will I want a solid fence.

Meanwhile, Allan had moved the original south gate that was at the end of bridge.

He hinged the south east corner gate…

South east gate, still mostly blocked by crab pots.
Just tied shut for now.

…the east gate…

The east gate, with wooden latch, from Alicia’s side

…and started in the “beach gate”, the second south gate which didn’t quite get done because he ran out of daylight.

We call it the beach gate, because it goes to a beach on what used to be waterfront but is now just a little pond. We don’t know if the beach will even still be there a year from now, but we need all the gates in order to get outside for maintenance without climbing over willow trunks. If a road and culvert destroys frogland (let it not be so), the gates will still be useful but will have trees and shrubs planted in front of them for a sight blocker.

It makes a lot more sense of just leave the swale, aka frogland. It would save the developers money, and that wet area holds a lot of tidal water that rises from the ground that would not be controlled by a culvert and level road. In fact the whole field was wet over my shoes back when I used to walk across it to go to the port Saturday market in May and the swale would even then be full of a lot of water.

Allan and Skooter both came in at sunset.

There might just be one more official south fence day, if Allan can get the fence toppers installed (you’ll see) and the beach gate done in one day. Putting in a post and the tops for the three arbors might remain, but that’s not technically part of the fence!

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Thursday, 13 January 2022

At home

I hauled some cardboard out to the willow grove and made a path.

The route is getting wetter and wetter and my shoes filled up with water.

I am not usually into bark paths, but it works out there.

Some or all of the rest will be garden beds.

Allan put wire panels on all the rest of the fence. The remaining ones had to be custom cut and fitted around tree branches.

First panel to fill in…

The second fill in area was at the west end.

I went indoors halfway through my project for dry shoes and a raincoat. I hadn’t expected the steady, relentless rain today. It appears that none of the cats wanted to go outdoors.

The third fill in area required some monkey-like tree scrambling. He worked on it till dark and got all the areas filled in, using up almost every scrap of wire panels from the old fence.

Looking north across the soggy garden.

The fence project still has a few remaining parts: hanging the four gates that are temporarily installed (too heavy for me to lift out of the frame). And putting the broken tool heads on top of the fence like they used to be, because that amuses us with its medieval appearance. (That might not be a historically correct description.) And then adding the tops of the three new arbors, and done! I think that hinging the gates will be the hardest part.

Facebook gave me a memory of what Allan was doing ten years ago today. I am sure he feels like it never ends. January 13, 2012, he was building the big arbor that now holds our Paul’s Himalayan Musk rose.

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