Enon Hall

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April 15, 2008

We're alive and well here at Enon Hall. Sorry there haven't been any updates here for a while. Okay...a long while. Our lives have been happy and busy, with not much time for work on the house, but things are starting to get back into gear with the arrival of spring.

The last time I posted, William and I had finished our clearing work and had amassed a large brush pile. We had it hauled away last month...all six dump truck loads of it! Hard to believe two little people could create such a big pile!

This weekend I tilled up our vegetable garden plot. This year, we're trying something different. Grass seed. We've decided to forgo our usual large sacrifice to the weed gods and, instead, build a small raised vegetable bed right behind the kitchen...close to the hose so we can actually water it. In past years, our garden has started off grand but then quickly turned into an embarassment as we ran out of time to take care of it and as the weeds quickly moved in. We're hoping that maybe smaller will be better.

We have an exciting new addition to the family around here...

Meet our new "Roomba"...a robotic vacumm cleaner. I saw one in action at a friend's house last week and had to get one for Gay for an early Mother's Day gift. And boy has Roomba been a hit! Just turn him loose in a room and he works and works and works until every speck of dirt and dog hair is gone. Yes, we call him a "him." You have to see him work to understand. It's hard to think of him as an inanimate object. The other day as we were watching him work I was struck by how much things have changed here at Enon Hall over the last 250 years. I wonder if anybody in all those years ever thought, "Someday this house will be cleaned by robots." -- Bill

April 18, 2008

Our new raised vegetable garden is ready for business.

Raised vegetable garden

It's 12'X5'. The five-foot width makes it easy to work the entire garden from the outside edges, without having to step in. I used 2X8 framing lumber for the construction. The sides are attached to corner posts driven into the ground and everything is fastened together with deck screws.

This bed holds about 40 cubic feet of dirt...which is a lot more than it might sound like. Fill came from a pile of topsoil that we already had, plus 4 cubic feet of cow manure, and 8 cubic feet of peat, all nicely blended. Because we dug up the area inside the frame before adding the additional soil, you can effortlessly dig down about 18 inches with just your hand. Sweet!

Now to get some plants and seed!

If this raised bed works out, we might add more in the future, creating a grid with walkways between them. -- Bill

April 19, 2008

For anybody interested in genealogy, Ellen Goodman's new column titled "Family Secrets" is a good read.

April 20, 2008

We've had a 100% chance of rain since 8:00 this morning according to the forecast. And yet, not a drop has fallen and it's now almost 11:00. We had chalked today up to being a wash-out based on the dire predictions. Now it seems that we've wasted the morning when we could have actually been working outside. Oh well...that's not really what I want to write about.

At present we have two paper mulberry trees at one end of the kitchen quarters. These trees are much maligned, even despised in many circles. We, on the other hand, find them quite interesting.

Paper mulberry trees

When we first bought Enon Hall, the kitchen quarters was surrounded on all sides by these trees. We've since cut some down and lost some to storms. The two surviving trees are well situated and, we think, very attractive.

The previous owner described them as "trash trees" and that seems to be the consensus. Uncontrolled, they can be quite invasive and are on "Least Wanted" lists in many areas of the country. In Virginia, they can often be found springing up wild around outbuildings and one tree can turn into a dozen or more in a hurry.

They are late to get their leaves in the spring, as you can see in the photo.

There are male and female trees. Both of ours are male and produce these long clusters of "flowers" this time of year. The female trees have ball-shaped flowers.

Paper mulberry trees

Once they finally leaf out you will find three different leaf shapes on the same tree! The leaves are large and the fully leafed out tree has a nice airy look.

The paper mulberry, originally from the Orient where its bark was used to make paper, was introduced in North America around 1735. The intent was that the trees would be used to start a silk industry here, but the colonists quickly discovered that this was the wrong kind of tree for that. After that, they were largely used as an ornamental tree.

Paper mulberries are fast growers, reaching up to 45 feet, and become more and more interesting as they get older and gnarlier. Their trunks become twisted and grotesque. "Grotesque" in a fascinating way. There are several old paper mulberries in Williamsburg where they are used as centerpieces of backyard gardens.

Paper mulberry trees

This postcard from 1942 shows a wonderfully gnarled paper mulberry that was behind the Robert Carter House in Williamsburg.

Paper mulberry trees

Paper mulberries propegate by seed, spread far and wide by birds, and by shoots that spring up everywhere from the tree's shallow root system. If you regularly mow around these trees, then there's no problem. If you don't, you will have a paper mulberry forest in short order.

Last summer we transplanted one of these young shoots to an area of the backyard where we would like a shade tree. I think that was last July and already it's more than knee high.

Paper mulberry trees

So, why all this thinking about paper mulberries? We're considering harvesting more shoots this year and planting them along the fence that we want to build where William and I did the clearing this winter. They'll grow fast and restore a little of our privacy, and in their old age they'll be interestingly gnarly.

Oh, and they'll be free!

11:40 and still no rain... -- Bill

April 23, 2008

Gay planted our raised bed on Saturday and this morning we already have radishes and lettuce coming up!

Four days must be some kind of new germination record! At least for us. 2-1/2 days of rain certainly helped. Now if we can just discourage the little dog from leaping into the bed and dancing around on our seedlings.

I think we might need to seal our slate floor in the colonnade. This is the area where boots get discarded when we come in from outside and every sweaty footprint soaks into the slate and stays there until the next time we wash the floor.

Would some kind of sealant prevent that? -- Bill

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© 1999- William H. Chapman