It’s thyme!

15 03 2011

Spring has a way of creeping up on us–appearing seemingly out of nowhere like chickweed in freshly prepared garden beds (but thankfully more subtle than the sprawl of mint left unrestrained!) There is always so much to be done in these final weeks of winter, especially for the gardener. Seeds must be started, tools need to be sharpened, and beds ought to be made…the kind for planting, at least: if you garden and manage hospital corners past April 15, my hat’s off to you!

It’s my first Spring in the Spring House, so I was eager to see what might pop up in the existing garden beds out front. Luckily for me, a splendid display of miniature Tete a Tete daffodils now graces the front lawn, a convenient foreground for the new strawberry beds. They caught the eye of my neighbor Maureen, who requested a few for her yard–quite a compliment to the Tete a Tete’s, as Maureen and her mother are both accomplished planstwomen. Upon closer inspection of the daffodils, Maureen uncovered a patch of thyme in the walkway of the garden. Today I discovered more of the wiry stems wandering along the border of the rock beds, covered in leaves that are not only wonderfully fragrant, but GREEN!

There’s something enchanting about the re-emergence of perennials after a cold winter, whether the yellow splash of narcissus brightening otherwise drab lawns or the more subtle revitalization of the herb garden. Even when the chills of winter still inhabit our toes, the return of life in the garden hints at days full of warmth and energy to come.

The seeds have begun to germinate, the garden’s been plowed (many thanks to John North), and the tools still yearn to be sharpened. Spring is just around the corner, and I’d better get that mint under control while there’s still a chance! See y’all in the garden!

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This Will Be My Labor of Love

3 04 2010

April 1, 2010

Who knew “roughing it” could be so comfortable!  I slept like a dream last night, right through my first wake-up alarm, in fact.  Despite my late start, I was able to get in a couple of productive hours before I drove into town for work.

John (the resident who helps maintain the property) stopped by to see how things were going and discuss some of the major issues with my residence.  He’s going to turn my water on this afternoon, which will be great!  We so often take running water and indoor plumbing for granted.  There’s actually an old wooden outhouse in my backyard, a reminder that modern conveniences were slower to arrive in this part of the country than others.

One “amenity” that never quite made it to my house is city water, and what a blessing it is to be without that “necessity”!  The reason my residence is called the Spring House is because there’s a natural spring that flows from the side of the mountain into my back yard, running down a small stream until it reaches a beautiful private pond in the front.  The spring also provides my house with all of its “tap” water, meaning that every faucet I turn on yields crystal clear H2O, every bath I take will be chemical-free, even my clothes and dishes will be washed with spring-fed water.  Eat your heart out, Daniel Vitalis!

The obvious question is, “How does the water get from here:

Mouth of the Spring

The namesake of the Spring House


to my illustrious indoor plumbing?”  The simple answer is:  A RAM pump moves the water from the spring to a holding tank located further up the hill using the power of gravity.  You read that correctly: UP the hill using ONLY the power of gravity, no power source.  For a more complex explanation about how it works (and instructions on how to build one for around $50), check out this Off-Grid article.

Because my house is located at the bottom of the hill, gravity pulls it from the tank, through the plumbing, and out whatever faucet I have turned on. Hot water is currently heated using an electric hot water heater, but a woodburning outbuilding stove is on my wish list. While they require a bit more effort than just setting a thermostat, they conveniently heat your water AND your house (and your barn…and your greenhouse…) efficiently. The woodburning stove that’s in the house no longer functions, so I say, “Why not kill two birds with one stone?” (Am I allowed to use that phrase now that I live on a Wildlife Preserve? My PETA friends are free to come up with a PC alternative!) Also, we had an ice storm that felled a lot of trees a couple years back, so it’s feasible that I could collect cords of firewood for several years without having to down a living tree.

Of course, there are plenty of home improvements that take precedence over my dream heater. I have a roof to replace, a dangerous tree that’s leaning against one side of the house, a busted toilet, holes in the hardwood floor (but at least they’re hardwood, right?), the entire porch ceiling has to be ripped down and redone.

Not to mention missing outlet covers and switch plates, cracked linoleum, dirty walls, absent light fixtures, misshapen lavatory necessities, totalled trim, gaping screen windows, and truant door knobs.

Then there’s the barns to shore up, the front facade of the house that has decayed to the point of necessary replacement, which will mean a whole lot of painting, all of which could have been avoided had the gutters been cleaned out. Oh yeah, can’t forget new gutters!

So, this will be my labor of love. That’s how much I love this water.

Spring House Water

Crystal clear water/Emerges from the mountain/Dappled by sunlight

And it’s not just the water. I’ve loved this valley, the dream, these days full of wonderment at Mother Nature’s whim for years before I knew the spring existed.

Wind Chime

Hanging a windchime in the front yard as world renowned beadmaker and former Meadowcreek resident Sage Holland looks on.

And though we say that love is blind, I have no illusions with regards to the task ahead. It’s a full-time job to be accomplished in part-time hours. I still have to run my shop in town to support my Meadowcreek habit. Progress will be slow, but steady, and for now I will celebrate the small victories. This morning I changed the locks on the door, hung a windchime, and added a little flair to the front porch. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Birdhouse Perched on Porch

After I hung this birdhouse on the porch post, I realized that the color scheme might work well when I repaint. What do you think?





The Meadowcreek Initiative, Day 1

1 04 2010

March 31. 2010

The day has finally come:  After 4 years of finger-crossing and persistent pestering, the Board of Directors determined that I wasn’t going away.  Bev (she’s the Vice-Pres) called yesterday morning to give me the news–the Board had voted in favor of offering me the Spring House residence.  So here I am, spending my first night camped out on the bedroom floor, journaling by candle light.  (Primitive camping, that is…we don’t have power, water, or internet yet, which might explain why my posts show up online a day after I write them for a while.)  Hyla is chattering away right next to me, too excited to sleep despite the encroaching midnight hour.

And I’m excited, too.  We spent the afternoon up the hill in the small community of Fox working on Gus and Cynthia’s farm.  Today was potato planting day, and it’s always such a joy to chat with Cynthia while we work.  Hyla is crazy about Gus and his goats (they just had babies!), and we always end up staying longer than planned.  I’d hoped to make it down into the Valley long before sunset, but it was dark by the time my eyes came to rest on the “Welcome to Meadowcreek” sign.  Home!

If my heart has ever been anywhere, it’s been here at Meadowcreek.  This valley is magical, something I realized when I attended summer camp here in sixth grade.  Given, a lot of things have changed in the past 17 years. but it still has that “take your breath away” and “renew your spirit” vibe that stole my heart as a child.  There’s a lot of work to be done, but I am confident that we will be sharing the magic of Meadowcreek with the world again very soon. This place has far too much potential to be kept a secret for long, and I look forward to educating, motivating, and captivating minds of all ages in the future.  As for all that work that needs to be done:  “Ain’t nothin’ a little sweat, blood, and elbow grease can’t fix!”

I should hit the hay soon as tomorrow will start early…but this entry wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my really awesome neighbors  Samantha and Robert.  I dropped by to introduce myself and let them know that if they saw an unfamiliar grey car at the Spring House, it’s just me.  (We have the most incredible neighborhood watch in all of Stone County down here!)  Samantha is about my age and has children close to my daughter’s, which is wonderful.  Her parents are also residents, her father John having maintained the Meadowcreek property for the past couple of years.  You can’t overestimate the value of good neighbors, and from tonight’s front porch conversation, I can tell that I’m going to enjoy having them as mine.  By the way, if you haven’t spent an evening shooting the breeze with an old friend (or even a brand new one!) lately, there’s no better time than spring!

Off to bed now.  Looking forward to what tomorrow brings…