Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mighty Trellises

So this is what Matt & I have been working on for the past several weeks:

Trellis plans. Click to enlarge

We're in the process of making 5 trellises: two for the climbers along the driveway (in the rose bed) and 3 to add a little privacy around the pond/terrace.

They are, as you can see, mighty and rugged beasts, with chunky zinc, aluminum, and steel hardware. By the time we completed our fourth trellis (yesterday), we had reduced the process to an exact science that takes about 2-1/2 hours per trellis. Feel free to use our plans, if you like, with the usual legal caveats: blah blah at your own risk, blah blah agree to hold harmless, blah blah promise to donate kidney to authors if requested at unspecified future date.

We needed big trellises, both for privacy and because they need to hold big plants: 'New Dawn' rose, which had entirely consumed the dinky wire trellis we bought as a stop-gap measure a couple of years ago; 'Red Fountain', a robust 'Don Juan'/'Blaze offspring'; and evergreen wisteria (Millettia reticulata).

Since the livestock panels we use in the bottom came free with the house, we thought we could assemble these puppies on the cheap--just a little inexpensive lumber and some screws.


Between the hardware and the lumber, each trellis cost over $100.

Yeek. This is one reason the project has taken several weeks and still isn't complete.

Still, I don't think we could have easily bought a pre-fab trellis of comparable size and toughness for less.

Here's what we used for each trellis with their (estimated) prices:

(6) 10' sections of 1 × 6" treated pine ($5/6 ea)
(20) L-shaped rigid ties ($1.30 ea)
(160) 1" lath screws ($5/6 per 170-pack)
~(30) 2-1/2" carriage bolts ($0.36 ea)
(4) 3" carriage bolts ($0.38 ea)**
~(60) 7/16" flat washers ($4/5 per 50-pack)*
~(30) 7/16" hex nuts ($4/5 per 100-pack)***
nails or staples to tack wire panels in place
3' × 4' wire livestock panels, e.g. hogwire or cattle panels
2 regular-sized bags of sacrete/quickrete ($2.50 ea)

*Note that we used a combination of 5/16" and 7/16" nuts and bolts. Oops. Do try not to repeat our goofup--it just makes things confusing. The 7/16" nuts are more stylishly blocky, so I'd recommend using them.

**If you can find 2-3/4" carriage bolts, that might be easier--we had to use a C-clamp to press the boards close enough to be able to fasten the nuts to the bolts. On the crosspieces around the wire panel we had to use 3" bolts, though they're longer than needed for the rest of the trellis.

***If you have small, accident-prone children running around, consider using acorn nuts to avoid potential scratching and scrapings.

Here are the lengths of wood we used:
(1) 45-1/4" (top front)
(5) 34" (all other crosspieces)
(2) 120-1/2" (back legs)
(2) 114-3/4" (front legs)

To Assemble:
(1) Cut all wood
(2) Lay out front with most attractive sides of wood facing up
(3) Screw together using rigid ties
(4) Lay out back side--may want to lay it on top of front as template
(5) Screw back together using rigid ties
(6) Use staples or nail to tack wire panel to inside of back.
(7) Place front side over wire on top of back side--like an unpleasantly lignous giant Oreo.
(8) Drill holes and attach front to back using bolts, like this: bolt head, washer, trellis, washer, nut. Use the 3" bolts for the middle and bottom crosspieces.

The wood is cut into lengths with fractions because (as we realized partway through the first trellis) 1 × 6" doesn't mean that it is actually 1 inch thick or 6 inches wide. And since we had certain other measurements we wanted to retain (e.g. the height of the upper window, the length and width of the wire section, and the height of the wire section above the ground), other lengths had to go a little goofy.

Which reminds me: what is it about lumber these days? Our trellises look like they come from the dendrological equivalent of crack babies. Every time we go to the hardware store, we spend a good 15 minutes plowing through the lumber pile trying to find a handful of pieces that aren't completely crapped out. And in the end, the best treated pine we can find is spongy, knot-riddled, gouged, and splitting. And the knots are extra-specially unwholesome-looking: pitted, dark, and cavernous. Is there some secret store somewhere that only the truly hardcore know about where one can buy lumber that doesn't decompose while you look at it?

Anyway, we got the first two assembled, and Matt used his post-hole diggers to dig a hole...

...a very, VERY deep hole. I like to think that it was our little way of honoring Hu Jintao's visit, since it allowed us to peep at his homeland on the other side of the planet.

Then we tied a string to two stakes and used a level to try to get the blasted things to be parallel and perpendicular in the appropriate dimensions so we could cement them in. That wasn't fun. Matt gave his arsenal of swear words quite the workout that day.

But in the end: voila! Two new trellises.

We'll install stained glass windows in the top portions of the trellises... once I make the stained glass windows. Someday. Eventually. Just any day now.

I'm hoping we can get the remaining three trellises in the ground this week and then take a well-deserved break start work on the front walkway. Or the extensions to the irrigation system. Or begin planting the new beds. Or mulch the yard...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cemeteries for Christmas

A decaying house we passed on our cemetery trip. Seemed to fit the theme, and I love the colors.

Okay, this should be the last in my series on mid-winter procrastination. For those who are NOT fans of cemeteries, we'll be returning to regularly scheduled house & garden programming shortly (coming soon: You too can mass-produce monster trellises!).

Somehow or other, neither of our families ended up celebrating Christmas on Christmas this year, so we were at loose ends. We love having major holiday meals at Chinese restaurants--it feels so transgressive to forgo the turkey and have dan-dan noodles instead--so we did dinner at T&S Seafood on N. Lamar in Austin. (And, I might add, they amply repaid our trust in them, proffering up a rapture-inducing Christmas dinner of salt and pepper shrimp, calamari, and combination seafood on flat rice noodles. Ooooh so yummy.) And to work up an appetite, we hit a bunch of tiny local cemeteries in the bitter, freezing cold.

We saw:
Manda Methodist
Kimbro Community
New Sweden
Rose Hill
Kimbro Family (sort of)

Manda Methodist was the first scheduled stop on our tour. It pretty well gives the flavor of a lot of the cemeteries on our stop--lots of flat farmland, not a lot of trees. I've never been to Iowa or Kansas, but I imagine they look much like this.

The sparse little Manda cemetery in the foreground; siloes in the background. This is the resting place of "Mother" B. Bengtson, 1835-1899.

Based on this tombstone alone, these folks have had a good 180 or so years to plant some trees (nothing fancy--some nice tough cottonwoods or cedars or even hackberries would soften things up nicely)--but they evidently like their cemeteries open and clean and flat.

Is this a Swedish thing, I wonder? Because we're in the Swedish hinterlands of the Austin area, settled by Germans, Bohemians, and most of all, Swedes. The area is now thinly populated, and to an outsider like me, its Swedish heritage is pretty well obliterated, outside of cemeteries. There aren't any Swedish restaurants, for example, nor have I heard of any big Swedish festivals, or any Swedish language communities (unlike Castroville, for example, with its Alsatian architecture and food, or Cestohowa/Panna Maria, with its dwindling community of elderly Silesian speakers). The Swedes just left behind tombstones, street names, and one old church. (If I'm mistaken about this, I'd love to be corrected. How awesome would a Texas-country-Swedish cafe be?)

To be fair to Manda, there are a few trees toward the back, by the hay bales. But it's mostly just open and windswept. And there's plenty of room for new additions, which is rather sad. Families like the one above and especially the mighty Forsdahls made arrangements for whole clans of descendants to be buried together; but the their family compounds are mostly empty. They must have died out or moved away. Or perhaps they're just exceptionally long-lived and the descendants haven't had to make use of their family plots yet. But that's not how it feels. It feels well-tended but sterile--a relic of fruitless dreams and plans from a nearly forgotten era. It feels like the kids moved off to Austin or Dallas or San Antonio and married there and had children there and are now buried near their own nuclear families.

After much misdirection and confusion, we also eventually found the Kimbro Community cemetery, which, with its single cedar, manages to be even flatter and bleaker than Manda.

It does, however, have recent interments, which is nice. And someone regularly changes some of the silk flowers (but not all, which is interesting. What did the deceased do to deserve this final revenge on the part of the flower distributor?) Also, there's a view of the picturesque New Sweden church from this cemetery. Can you see a tiny pointy thing more or less in the middle of the horizon? That's it!

The spare and tidy Kimbro Community cemetery. Home to many a Swenson and Jacobson, including Christina & Ola Swenson, born in Malmo, Sweden, in the old century.

Next we visited the much more extensive New Sweden cemetery, where, to my delight, we found tombstones in Swedish, like the one below, which I cannot decipher, beyond "Har hv... J Edwin Sanderstrom..."

Or this interestingly austere marker. I like to think that it says "Here lies an impassioned bibliophile," but I imagine the book is meant more as a religious symbol than as a testament to S. August Anderson's love of the written word.

New Sweden was the only place that had those awesome old ceramic photographs inset into the headstones--and only one at that.

Mr. Stenholm, New Sweden cemetery:
"Although he sleeps, / His memory doth live, / And cheering comfort / To his mourners give;[sic] / He followed virtue as his truest guide; / Lived as a Christian -- / As a Christian died"
Thanks to our recent research, I've asked Matt to make sure that nothing on my tombstone rhymes. I love these old black-and-white photos, though.

While searching for the elusive Kimbro Family cemetery (in somebody's sorghum field on FM 1660--we could only glimpse it from afar), we stumbled on the Saul cemetery, which is distinctive for its love of fancy ironwork, its pleasant woody backdrop along Brushy Creek, and the slaves purported to be buried there in unmarked graves.

I'm not exactly clear on what purpose these gates serve, but they certainly are interestingly... complicated. I asked Matt if we should erect some of these around us when we croak--y'know, to keep out the riff-raff--but he said "No."

We also found--deep in the back end of beyond--Rose Hill cemetery, unnervingly located down this scary path marked by a crooked sign and bare tree.

Rose Hill appears to have been a German settlement, and someone appears to be in the process of restoring it. Broken tombstones, like the one below, are marked.

While other stones appear to have been neatly patched back together with cement.

And all the graves here rated fresh silk flowers. All this effort is very touching and romantic--what a nice thing to do, prolonging the frail relicts of the dead and preserving a link to history.

But the best find of the day was Shiller. We stumbled upon it by accident--I don't think it even has a historical marker. It's weedy and overgrown and full of trees, which is exactly how we like our cemeteries.

It's like Where's Waldo for little Pugsley and Wednesday Addams--can you spot the cemetery?

It appears to be full of Czechs, as most of the tombstones are in Czech. This one, for the baby Josef, says "Zde. odpciva v panu zesnuly. Josef. Vincenc. Syn. F. a M. RIPL. Mar 2o cervna, 1895 Zemr 14 cervna, 1895."

It was a gorgeously blue there, despite the cold, and the trees and rolling pale gold pastures made a much more picturesque setting for this cemetery than most of the others.

Like so many of these early settlements, this one seems to have lost a disproportionate number of infants and small children, and there are many of these in this cemetery, their markers rising out of the dead weeds in an appropriately plaintive fashion.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sparkly San Antonio

I've been AWOL since early December--busy month. So here's the first installment in the backlog: our annual trip to San Antonio to see the Christmas lights on the riverwalk.

We spent the night at the St. Anthony Wyndham, which is a few blocks from the river (and therefore a little cheaper than the places that are directly on the water). It was built around the turn of the last century, and as you can see from the lobby, it's très chi-chi.

The bit we liked best, though, was the doorbell.

Each room room has a brass plate with a button on the outside; push the button, and a clapper chimes on a couple of pieces of metal inside. We know this because we were fascinated by it and pushed the button over... and over... and over... Our poor neighbors.

I would pay good money to buy such a device and install it on our front door--so cool, so analog, so fin-de-siècle.

This is mostly what we came to see: the lovely lights blinking in the trees and reflecting in swirls on the water. We never found a camera setting that could really capture all the color, but this trippy picture was oddly the best. Drink enough overpriced margaritas, and this is roughly what the riverwalk looks like.

The next day, we visited the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

It was in the throes of a lovely explosion of fall color. I think--but wouldn't swear to it--that these are chalk maples--Acer leucoderm.

The baldcypresses were also changing, which looks especially nice against clumps of palmettos.

I always like visiting the fachwerk house they have on the grounds. They had to replace or resurface the plaster and replace the roof, but the beams are original. I'm not sure what kind of wood they are, but these gnarled old beams are neat.

Although it was quite crisp out, a number of plants were in flower, like this Turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus).*

*Actually, technically, a giant Turk's cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii--good catch, Bob!
Related Posts with Thumbnails