Monday, May 24, 2010

Dolphins in Deerfield

The dolphins have landed!

In 2004 my neighbor Larry was traveling in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and saw a stone carving that he just had to have. Vietnamese craftsman had sculpted the three dolphins from a solid slab of rock. He bought it on the spot and made arrangements to have it shipped to the U.S. After several months it made its way across the Pacific to the West Coast. Another few months and it had arrived in Knoxville at a warehouse.

Larry had the stone carving brought to his garage where it rested for five years in its heavy-duty crate. In a post last year, I told you about Larry building a mongo gazebo at the side of his house. The floor joists of the gazebo rest on a massive concrete column, the perfect resting place for a dolphin sculpture that weighs more than a 1,000 pounds.

Getting the sculpture from the garage was an engineering feat to say the least. A commercial Bobcat that was on the premise doing some driveway work was commandeered to move the stone to the edge of the gazebo. Today, Larry and I used an engine hoist and a tractor to position the carving in the middle of the gazebo.

The dolphins at last are in their final resting place. Did I ever tell you about the 1,000-pound eagle carving with wings spread that we put in Larry's Africa room?

Friday, May 7, 2010

A special hike -- 40 years later

While I usually keep my diary posts strictly related to the goings on at Deerfield, I occasionally take the liberty for personal tidbits. This is one.

On April 27 the temperature in the lower elevations of the Smokies was a balmy 50 degrees with a light rain. The three of us -- my son, Lem; his girlfriend, Alice; and yours truly -- started the ascent to Mt. LeConte at around 11 a.m. Two hours later, the temperature was in the 30s and it was either hailing or sleeting. We couldn't decide which. When we reached the top of Mt. LeConte (6,800-feet elevation), the temperature was 22 degrees and we were hiking in four inches of snow. This is on April 27, mind you, in Tennessee.

Thankfully, Lem and Alice, veterans of Minnesota winters, had talked me into buying a pair of rain pants in Gatlinburg before we left. Lem and Alice made the 10.5 mile hike (roundtrip) in their open Keen sandals. I kept referring to the snow as a "blizzard," and Alice kept snickering. Four inches is merely a light dusting if you grew up in Wisconsin like Alice.

We were one of the first groups to arrive at LeConte Lodge. A propane stove awaited us. (The propane is brought up to the lodge by helicopter. The food and supplies are brought up by llama teams.) We enjoyed a hot dinner of beef tips, vegetarian meatloaf and hot vegetables. We played Scrabble by kerosene lamp in the meeting room and listened to stories from those who had made the climb as many as a dozen times. We heard about the guy who carried his 94-year-old mother up the mountain on a chair strapped to his back.

Alice woke early the next morning to retrieve face-washing water in a bucket. She announced that she was going to jog about a mile or so to the other side of the mountain in the snow in her sandals to catch the sunrise. Lem and I, hardy souls that we are, cheered her on and went to the toasty dining hall for a cup of coffee. We enjoyed the beautiful photos she brought back.

Despite the snow, sleet and/or hail, freezing temperatures and slick mountain trails, the hike was glorious. This was my second journey to LeConte, having hiked it as a student at UT. The first hike in 1970 was magnificent, but 40 years and good company have a way of multiplying the enjoyment exponentially.

Going for a whole muffin this year

When my first crop of blueberries came in last year, Betty commented that we probably could get at least a half a muffin from the harvest. While my eight bushes look a little scrawny, they did survive the tough winter and they have a lot of blooms.

I remember hiking on on Charlie's Bunion last year in the Smokies and seeing blueberry bushes more than 6-feet tall. They probably had never seen the first pinch of fertilizer, compost or iron soil supplement.

Here's hoping for a full muffin this year.

'Even YOU can grow brambles'

When I was planning my first plantings at Deerfield, I consulted with my friend Gabe at one of the Knoxville garden stores. He forgets in one day more than I will ever know about horticulture. We discussed apple, pear and cherry trees. We discussed the different kinds of grapes. When I mentioned I might like to try blackberries and raspberries, his famous quote was: "Even you can grow brambles."

Gabe appears to be correct.

My thornless blackberries make up the top row (photo above) and and the next row are my raspberries. This is the second year for both and they are full of blooms. I hope the deer appreciate the lack of thorns.

Draining the earth

Since my neighbor was going to rent a Ditch Witch to do some rerouting of water in preparation for his new driveway, I decided to get it on the action and try to drain some perpetual wet spots that haunt my precious flat land. As you might have guessed, flat land is at a premium in the hills of East Tennessee.

I put in about 125 feet of 4-inch perforated tubing on a bed of gravel and then covered the black tubing with gravel. In the photo, not all the tubing is covered yet.

When I dug down about a foot, the trenches filled with water. I had to hook my truck winch to the Ditch Witch in order to dig through the muck. It's the first time I have ever Ditch Witched. To those who run one of those ugly beasts for a living, I salute you. I got the Witch back to the rental place as fast as I could.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda

Because almost half of my garden plot was virtually impossible to till and plant, I tilled a 15 X 40 foot patch of land just south of my fenced garden. The soil is perfect. I planted radishes, okra, turnips, onions and sunflowers and it all seems to be doing fine. I added not one cup of organic matter to the soil.

If I could just move my fence 30 feet to the south, I would have a good garden. Close, but no cigar . . . or bush beans for that matter.

Bad spot for a garden plot

In several posts last year I related how I carefully went about picking a spot for our vegetable garden. I had the soiled analyzed and was told the only thing wrong was that it needed more organic matter. I proceeded to haul almost a hundred cart loads of leaves and clippings into the site. The 32 X 40 foot plot is surrounded by an 8-foot deer fence and the bottom 4 feet is covered with chicken wire.

The problem is that a swath of the nastiest clay and gooiest muck I have ever seen runs through the middle of the garden. The highest part of the garden (top photo) seems OK, but the middle third (bottom photo) is better suited for earthenware pottery than plants.

My plan of action now is to watch my vegetables die this summer, and then in the fall take my tractor scoop and remove the top 18-inches of soil. I will replace it with new topsoil.

If I were to calculate the money and time I've spent on my ill-fated garden, I could never eat another home-grown tomato. Every time I get the hoe and start chopping up dirt clods, I get this feeling that the Deerfield wildlife are snickering in the woods. Or it may just be that giant sucking sound of my boot trapped in the muck.

Egress and ingress

I finally got around to installing a dog door from our backyard onto the porch. Our two dogs, Willie and NellyBelle, could always go out the screen door, but they had difficulty coming back in.

Nelly (the Boston Terrier) learned to use the door quickly. It took her about a day to teach Willie, the white boxer. Willie is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but he makes up for it with his charming personality. He got out of obedience school with a GED.

Now, my task is to fix the other three screen doors on the porch that Willie has gone through a various times. A flimsy screen door is no match when Willie sees something on the other side that interests him.

Welcome back, Cecil Brunner

Last year in several posts, I related how I pruned our 12-foot high Cecile Brunner climbing rose and promptly killed it.

I also told how we planted a new one in its spot and were hoping for the best. Wonder of wonders. Our Cecile Brunner (above photo) is only a year old and it is healthy and budding like crazy.

If you remember, the rose is planted near our septic tank. Some formulas never change.

New posts coming your way

I hereby and forthwith repent from my slovenly ways. I plan on barraging Deerfield Diary readers today with a host of new posts. Hang on.