Friday, August 24, 2012

The Ax Men of Blooming Hill

Blooming Hill Ax Men crew from left to right: Micheal, Sean, the Prodigal son, Kevin and  P. Lorenz  (Peter).
As the day went on, more trees came down.
It was an episode straight out of the History Channel's Ax Men, here at Blooming Hill, the other day.  Well, it was if you take into account that the Ax Men were not in the Great Pacific Northwest and they weren't big and burly with full beards and wearing flannel plaid shirts--although I did notice that none of them had shaved that morning and these Blooming Hill lumberjacks were more on the collegiate-preppy-athletic side.  Well, again, that description also excludes P.Lorenz, the tree climber extraordinaire, for the day, who is preppy but way beyond the collegiate side of life...Sorry dear...'Tis true, however.  Anyway, I digress--where was I?  Oh yeah...

The three Ax Men pulling on rope attached to a tree they are pulling down. they look serious!

Don't let the narrow trunk fool you.  These Black Locust trees are made of very hard wood and they all reached about 50 feet in height.
...It was the day of reckoning for four dead Black Locust trees and two very ominous looking dead branches on an old Silver Maple tree, all precariously perched on the hillside overlooking the garden shop and it was time to end their reign of terror they gleefully held over Peter and me, especially every time a good wind whipped up around here.  These trees were leaning menacingly toward the shop and you could see them conspiring with each other, planning their own day(s) of excitement and adventure.  Are you following me?  In short, these trees and branches were an accident(s) just waiting to happen.  So, P.Lorenz took a day off from his "day job," and summoned the "prodigal son," a.k.a.  Kevin, home.  Kevin, in turn, called in his own reinforcements, Micheal and Sean, to help heave and ho, saw and chop and gather and dispose of old and rotted wood planted stubbornly in the ground...PHEW!

One of the first trees to come down.  Then the work of chopping and cleaning began.
Sean, Micheal and Kevin loaded and unloaded chopped-up fallen trees in and out of the truck all day long, creating a huge burn pile.  Burning the left-over wood will happen much later in the fall when county fire restrictions are lifted.  Like Micheal's shirt says, "No guts, no glory" for these guys.
From left to right:  A Rugby player, a Lacrosse player and a Baseball player (and former pitcher, I might add) trying to lob a ball, attached to a rope, over a very high limb in order to help stabilize it and pull it down as Peter, in the tree, saws it off.  Note to reader:  Kevin was able to snag limbs this way and the tugging and pulling on ropes by all three helped get these trees and limbs down safely.
I must say, having three Generation X-Ax Men here to do a lot of the heavy and dirty work sure made things a lot easier for Peter and after a long and hot day of hard work and sweat,  P.Lorenz and his band of merry  Ax Men finished the job. The trees were not only reduced to a huge future burn pile of branches, but their trunks will also be recycled and used here at Blooming Hill as a stepped and slightly slanted path, sometimes referred to as a peron, up the steep hill and into the gardens and lavender beds.  Good idea, right?  According to P.Lorenz, "Felling trees is as much an art as it is a science."  So, he is applying his artful skills to making good use of these trees.  More on the progress of these steps in a future blog entry.

Micheal brought his own chain saw and cut through trees quite easily.
P. Lorenz and one of his favorite toys, his own trusty chain saw.
The beginning of the "peron."  Logs from the trees placed as a winding path up the hill.  The logs still need to be dug into the ground and secured.  After that, pea gravel will be added to each step.  
Once the day was done, and the BZZZZing, SNAPing, CRACKLing and CRASHing  stopped, our band of Generation X-Ax Men ate a hardy meal and then merrily headed down the road and off, to yet, other adventures they had in store for themselves. I'm thinking those adventures probably will not involve chopping down trees, at least not in the very near future.  Thanks guys!

Finishing up with lunch at the "OK Blooming Hill Corral" .. actually, on the back porch. Tucker, the dog, was too preoccupied with keeping his eye on the table and refused to turn and smile for the camera.
The Blooming Hill Ax Men from left to right: Micheal, Kevin, Sean and Peter.
P.S.  I'm also thinking Blooming Hill should have our own reality show.  We could call it the "Ax Men of Blooming Hill"--I think that's a pretty catchy title and these four modern lumberjacks are a pretty handsome crew...Don't you think?!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Women's Work and Ice Cream

PVFD, Company #8 serves the Philomont Area Neighborhood of around 1450 homes.
Trucks outside and at the ready!

I had a wonderful time this past weekend serving up my homemade Lavender-Honey ice cream at the Philomont Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary Ice Cream Social for the community of Philomont.  This group of women is among the hardest working I've ever come across, from putting on horse shows to making chili suppers to an annual barbecue and Sunday Brunches throughout the year, all in the effort of supporting our wonderful volunteer fire department which, in the past few years, thankfully, has also become a fire company of full time paid firefighters.  Not only are these women hard working, they also put these events on with a cherry attitude and always, always with a smile on their face.

Ladies Auxiliary members, Amanda and Kellie getting into the soda fountain shop spirit.

Pricilla, Alexa and Karen prepping the sundae table. 
The shake and sundae table, all festive and bright. Notice the pile of bananas.

When you don't have a jukebox, make your own and make sure it's colorful. 
We were so fortunate that the heat and humidity actually took a break, if only temporarily, this past Sunday afternoon and the Ladies Auxiliary threw open the doors of Philomont Company #8 and asked the firefighters to move the trucks so they were always at the ready, should they be needed. The ladies then transformed the truck bays into a fifties style soda fountain. Suddenly, a sparkling, sunny party was under way complete with live music, strawberry shakes, chocolate malts, Neapolitan-banana sundaes topped with their own mountains of whipped cream, watermelon snow cones and lot's and lot's of homemade ice cream, not only from me but also from other neighborhood women who brought their culinary talents to the Company #8 at 4pm.

A corner of my Blooming Hill Table.
The homemade ice cream side of the room along with the snow cone machine at the end.  We were ready!
At 4pm, the doors opened and the tasting of or homemade ice cream began.  We only got busier from there!
Homemade ice cream flavors that came from all local ingredients included Peach and Wineberry from Pricilla, Kathy brought Blackberry Sorbet and Alexa, who was the organizer of this particular event found time to make Elberberry Fig Gelato, and then of course, there was me with my Lavender-Honey Ice Cream.  We were lined up and ready for all of the taste testers!  If anyone had any concerns about too much sugar, they sure didn't let on!  The sundae/shake/malt table ran out of ice cream and someone was sent out for more while those of us who brought our own special blends, went home after the event  just about empty-handed, too.  I brought four quarts and left with barely any!  That, as Martha Stewart would say, "is a good thing!"  By the way--Kathy won the taste testing contest for her delicious Blackberry Sorbet--congratulations!

Moon Bounce after ice cream?  Ya gotta be young!
The band dressed appropriately in colorful Hawaiian Shirts--just like the Beach Boys!
No matter how much ice cream there was, snow cones ruled the  day.
From the moon bounce to milkshakes and bananas to neighbors getting together for a good cause, I think everyone had a good time.  And, eventhough my pictures don't reflect the amount of people who did show up, a good time was had by all.  I sort of got a little busy when the place really got going and picture taking had to take a back seat and chill! The entire day was a success for the Philomont Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary who, once again, generously and graciously served up a wonderful time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Unveiling - The Garden Gazebo, That Is!

The cast-stone pillars loaded and ready in Asheville for the long drive home.
Home (Blooming Hill) at last!

You can tell it's early.  Even the dog is yawning!

Well, if you read last week's blog entry about our journey down to Asheville, North Carolina and beyond to collect our new (old/antique) garden gazebo reminiscent of a structure straight out of a Jane Austin novel or, perhaps, that great American  saga by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind, then you're in the right place to witness it's unveiling right here at Blooming Hill.  The truck trundled back north into Virginia last Tuesday evening.  Bright and early Wednesday morning, true to form, Peter was out working on rebuilding the structure on top of a sunny slope and flanked by lavender beds.  A firm believer in "no rest for the weary," Peter had Kevin up and out of bed bright and early, too while, Kevin, nobody's fool himself, called for more reinforcement, his friend Micheal, to come over and join in the "rebuilding" games.

Measuring and leveling.
Placing it just so...
Enough posing for pictures...Back to work!
I think I heard both the truck and trailer release a collective sigh of relief when the Peter, Kevin and Micheal finally pulled the heavy cast-stone columns and scrolled wrought iron cap out of each and back into sunlight and stable ground.  Then, the real fun began as the early morning temperatures were mobilizing to rise into the mid 90's by 12 noon.  They worked fast in order to get
the columns set and the filigreed cap in place.

How come this doesn't fit?
A few minor adjustments...
So, now, I'll let the pictures tell the story, from here, as P.Lorenz and company put their noses to the grindstone and finished the job bringing Peter's vision to a close.  I'm sure that Jane Austin and Margaret Mitchell would be proud.

A few more minor adjustments...
Just one more inch...
Toasting the gazebo with cold bottles of water, now that the hard part is done, and before the hot, hot heat of the day settled in.

 The structure was up in less time than it took to come down but just as sturdy, thanks to the project manager and lead designer, P. Lorenz (a.k.a. Peter) and his assistants, Micheal and Kevin.  It was a job well done...Wait a minute!  There are still a few more things to be done--finishing touches, that is.  Two days later, after Kevin and Micheal were long gone, Peter added pea gravel to the floor of the gazebo which added definition to the entire structure.  He also filled in and repaired several cracks and divots that had occurred throughout the years as well as from the journey to Blooming Hill.

That poor truck never catches a break .   Peter unloading pea gravel from it and onto the floor of the gazebo.

Nothing major left to do at this point, however P.Lorenz likes things as close to perfect as he can know those artistic designer types! You can't live with them and you can't live without them. Yet, all of his efforts and hard work were worth it and shows in the small details.

The pea gravel floor in the gazebo.
Looking up through the wrought iron cap of the gazebo. "Nothing but blue skies, do I see!"

Are we done yet?!?

This beautiful fox statue is proving more effective in scaring off the devil deer than Tucker!
Elaborate, intricate and sturdy.

"Le Pie'ce de re'sitance!"
And VIOLA!  Blooming Hill's newest addition, a centerpiece of quiet beauty and vintage charm that will grace the gardens here for years to come.  It wasn't easy.  In fact, at times it seemed as though it was a perfect war of wills between the garden gazebo and Peter.  However, in spite of everything, it turned out beautifully!  Finally, we can enjoy it's arrival home.  And, yes--I really do think that Jane Austin and Margaret Mitchell would like it very much.  What do you think?  Drop by and see it for yourself.  It's even prettier in person.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Antique Garden Arbor

Garden gate into the yard where our new/old garden arbor was originally placed in Ashville, N.C.
Looking up, inside the garden arbor.
This is a tale of mystery, intrigue, action and even some melodrama...that's right, I said melodrama!  Maybe we were inspired by the Olympic games in Great Britain or maybe we were just gluttons for punishment in this hot, hot summer but I think Pride and Prejudice's Lizzy and her Mr. Darcy would have understood completely.

Two large lavender beds in the back of the yard being enlarged to frame  the arbor better.  That merans more lavender to  plant!  Sighhhh!
It all started one evening while walking through the gardens and casually talking about what was next on the projects list.  Yes, there is certainly enough pruning and weeding to be done but something was missing in the serenity of the the summer evening here at Blooming Hill and it was a garden arbor that could grace two well-healed lavender beds  positioned atop a small bluff in the back yard.  I wanted something to encourage sitting a spell while savoring the delights of nature right here in our own backyard on a warm summer evening, clear spring day or one of those golden-crisp fall afternoons.  So, Peter being Peter, went on an intense search to find just the perfect garden arbor, and find just the perfect garden arbor, he did--on Craig's list and located 9 hours away in yet another beautiful place--Ashville, North Caroline.   Where?!?  I said Ashville, North Carolina.

Finishing touches on the beds before we leave on our trip to pick the arbor up.
 A detailed end cap to one of the pillars.
Then came the wheeling and dealing with the owners of this lovely antique English-Romanesque inspired piece of garden art that would surely be a crowning specimen here at Blooming Hill--a wrought iron filigreed cap resting on six cast stone pillars with intricate detailing of cherubs, harps and acanthus leaves.  All we had to do was plan and time our entire vacation exactly around the persnickety seller's whims in order to obtain it. Of course, they were sure in the beginning, that we were not the right buyers for their arbor which, I shall remind you again, they were selling on Craig's list.  It took some complicated and convoluted dickering to reach an agreement.

Peter with Tucker supervising more digging at Blooming Hill before we leave.
In the end, Peter's tenacity wore them down and we were on our way to Asheville to pick up the garden arbor, still not sure it was ours, but positive thinking brings positive results--of sorts.   And, Peter promised me a tour of the Biltmore Mansion and Gardens since we were going to be in Asheville anyway...uh, huh.  In any case, Peter started measuring and redesigning lavender beds before we even were assured the arbor would be ours.  I tried to talk him into another arbor we had seen closer to home and definitely a sure bet, but he would not change his mind, having his morale boosted by Tucker and dreams of an antique garden arbor set among the garden beds.

A glimpse of the arbor in it's old home with the Blooming Hill crew beginning the dismantling process.
Bringing out the big guns to detach very stubborn pillars and wrought iron canopy all soddered.
Kevin and Peter putting a lot of muscle into it while former owner David, with a broken collarbone, looks on.
We arrived exactly at the appointed time and were greeted by Sammie and David who were only too gracious and very helpful since they had come to terms with parting with their beloved arbor, telling us a bigger, more ornate one was on it's way and would be taking the old arbor's place.  And, of course, Peter assured Kevin and I that we would be in and out of there in 1/2 hour and on our way to enjoy a perfectly lovely afternoon in the Biltmore Estate Gardens...easy peasy, lemon squeezy...uh-huh.  With each tug and pull, it became increasingly clear that this was not going to be easy or fast.

Not an easy job!
The pillars were set in two feet concrete footings with re-bar running through them from top to bottom...phew!

Getting the pillars and bases into the truck and trailer, unbroken, was another heavy, hard thing, entirely!
That one half hour turned into 5 hours and counting as the dismantling process was quite a bit more than any of us, even the owners themselves, expected.  Forget screwdrivers and pliers!  Out came saws and sanders, crowbars and sledgehammers and the sparks flew! By the time we were done taking apart the garden arbor, the place looked like a demolition zone and now all we had to do was wrestle it into the truck!

Former garden arbor owners, David and Sammie, very happy, I think, to see us go!
 Keeping our fingers crossed that our faithful red steed would take us through  both North and South Carolina and then finally home to Virginia.
Finally we were done dismantling, moving and packing our garden find into the truck and trailer, thanked Sammie and David and got back into a very loaded down truck for the next two legs of our vacation through Charlotte, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina (of course, we have to do everything the hard way, including vacations) before returning home.

The story is only half finished but the arbor was finally ours and we were on our way!
Stay tuned for Chapter Two of the continuing saga of  Lizzy and Mr. Darcy's return home with a little piece of Scarlotte and Rhett's Tara Plantation in tow. Oh! That's right, Lizzy and Mr. Darcy are in England and  Scarlotte, Rhett and Tara are in Georgia and everybody here is fictitious--except for Peter, Kevin, me and the garden arbor.   That is definitely real life and how we live it here at Blooming Hill!