A work in progress

(We had the help of Rosario; without it we would have never made such progress.We worked side-by-side for three days.)

I’m back in Florida after an easy but long day’s drive south. At some point we stopped at Big Porky’s Smoked Everything for a very late lunch. It was one of those terrifyingly-godawful-smells-delicious places on the long stretch of 301 in mid-Florida, where there’s nothing else for miles and miles and your butt has gone to sleep and you haven’t eaten for about 20 hours. The owner’s wife suggested the Big Smoked Feast for Two but we still needed to be able to retain consciousness for the remaining 4 hours home and we split one Smoked Lunch plate. This involved two massive ribs(from a mastodon?), two giant pieces of chicken, two giant baked potatoes (we opted out of the fried okra as our 2nd side and went for a potato each), two giant slices of Texas garlic toast, banana cream pie and two pork chops “on the house”- with 4 kinds of barbecue sauce, sour cream, butter and 62 ounces of iced tea all for 14.00. This is precisely the sort of place that contributes to my love-hate relationship with Florida and I’m now going to be strictly vegetarian, preferably nothing but microgreens, for at least 2 weeks. We finished a book on tape and it was good to pull up to the house, get a nice big hug and kiss from Rich and one of those fleeting “you-have-some-nerve-leaving-but-I-could-care-less-whether-you’re-here-or-not” greetings from the cats. Then I pretty much fell into bed.

(It was my friend’s idea to cover all those baby plants, including 4 datil peppers, with inverted pots to protect them while we mulched. Clever, yes? Note my whacky head gear. Complete sun cover, neck and all)

Working on the garden at the new house was hard and dirty and, on the final day, seemed absolutely endless as we finished spreading mulch at 730 pm. I can’t remember being so filthy or so tired- it’s been at least a decade- and we staggered back to the hotel, showered and barely made it before closing time for a celebratory dinner with a toast to friendship, green things and clever children. I’m excited to think about the growing list of people I owe because of their help and support with this house; I’ll have lots of visitors coming for vacations when all is said and done and that suits me fine.(A new old owl watches over the garden in my absence.)

The existing garden was tilled, rich soil and fertilizer added, the whole thing covered with weed barrier, cuts made and hundreds of impossibly tiny seedlings planted (I’ll be lucky if half a dozen grow) and then the whole thing mulched. Hardwood mulch by the yard is so cheap right now in Fairview because of winter ice storms- it’s basically the cost of delivery- and it smells so good. We didn’t have enough to do in three days so we also tilled up a new perennial bed and a side vegetable garden for melons, squash and pumpkins. I laughed thinking about Roxanne’s pumpkin saga of a couple years ago.(This will be the kitchen. It will have a cork floor; I’ve had one before and I love the durability, comfort under foot and renewable resource.)

Up at the house, the builders were working even longer hours and while we were there, things moved along at an amazing and wonderful pace. They are still behind because of the fierce late winter weather but with this view, it’s hard to complain too much. Well, actually, I still complain because I’m so anxious to be there and we’ve had our lives in storage long enough and Florida is heating up…(Late in the day shadows as the builders work into the early evening to get the roof closed up while good weather holds.)

Our builder is smart, skilled and clearly invested in the vision we have for this home. I really enjoy working with him although his youth is a bit unnerving. I did quite a bit of research and looking at his other houses before choosing him and it’s working out very well. Quality workmanship and cost are always precariously balanced in these projects. I’m constantly working to stay on budget which is a challenge, if not an impossibility, with major construction. When I asked about whether it made sense to take multiple bids on tile installation, he responded that he has excellent tilers he uses and he’s not likely to go outside that circle because after working with me thus far, he knows that any compromise in craftsmanship will “come back to bite him in the butt.” Not that I’m an intimidating homeowner or anything. Ah, me.

I’ll go back again in a couple weeks and then again late May, hopefully for good until next winter. Driving back to St. Petersburg with my neighbor and dear friend, I realized two things. On the one hand, I’m incredibly anxious to get settled into our mountain home and begin Rich’s and my life together there. Florida is not seasonal enough for me and it’s way too hot and flat. It’s surprising to me that, over the course of an 11 hour drive, the terrain and weather changes so dramatically.  On the other hand, we have many really good friends here and we are part of a wonderful neighborhood. We have a big investment in St. Petersburg, with the arts and the birds at Boyd Hill and Rich’s baseball. I guess the good news for us is that it’s a relatively short commute between here and there so we can visit back and forth without too much trouble. Stopping for lunch at Big Porky’s Smoked Everything.

More photos tomorrow. While we were there, I was pleased to see that UPS, Fed Ex and USPS all found us- no small feat because our address is a brand new street name and number as the lot was redefined with our purchase and we are the only house on the road. A very special early housewarming gift was delivered and I want to show it to you…

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14 responses to “A work in progress

  1. It’s so exciting to see the progress . . . I’m impressed by your drive. I think if I describe the menu at Big Porky’s, I may get Greg down to Florida. That’s his kind of place!

  2. I will love seeing YOUR pumpkins… look for at least one Fairytale variety. I still haven’t figured out where to plant them here. Do you suppose Stephen would mind… hmm… wonder what they would look like growing up to that trellis? Ha… ha… probably not a great idea… I can read the headline now… “Stupid woman picking flowers dies from falling pumpkin”.

  3. Vicki, everything is moving so beautifully quickly! Your hand at work in all of it and your builder sounds perfect. I’m so happy for you and Rich. I can’t wait to see the finished product but in the meantime, watching and reading about the process is priceless. Thank you for taking us along for the ride.

  4. It is such fun reading your posts. Where on 301 is Big Porky’s? I travel that way often.

  5. Where on 301 is Big Porky’s, I WILL travel that way often.

  6. FC and Beverly: http://www.fatjackssmokestackbbq.com/
    We at the new one in Lawty and it was, really, great.

  7. Ahhh, I did not know you drove up to Asheville. I am in St. Petersburg and just had lunch with my son at my favorite place, the 4th street shrimp store. Yum. Hope to catch a glimpse of you while here. I do plan to get over to Boyds Hill. I would do the canoe trip there tomorrow but my son has a prior engagement. Love your photos and love following along. I had wondered how you chose your contractor. He sounds wonderful.

  8. What Keri said. I can’t wait to see it all either – so you can make me feel even more inadequate than you do already…..lol

  9. Hard reading some of this, especially about the barbecue, since I’ve successfully completed one week, well six days anyway, on a weight-watcher (insert trademark sign here) diet. And seeing the building pictures inspires mixed feelings too, since the neighbors next door are going to have to re-build after their house was gutted by fire this week. So much better to build than re-build, I believe.

    Speaking of a nice view, I’m moving next week at work. My desk will have a window . . . TO THE OUTSIDE! First time for that in a dozen years.

  10. I envy you that beautiful garden setting, Vicki. A place can’t feel like home to me until I’ve had my hands in the dirt there…

  11. Hmmm–apparently I have retirement all wrong. I thought being retired meant RELAXING.
    As for your kitchen redo–jeez, building from the ground up? Well, our redo was just paltry compared to yours.
    All looks wonderful, and I know you will enjoy the fruits of garden labor as you prepare them in your new kitchen.

  12. You, my dear, are an eager beaver,
    Divulging your inner over-achiever.

    I wish I were feeling more poetic;
    Big Porky’s Smokehouse: Is it Ayurvedic?

  13. Vicki,

    Guess what! That black material really doesn’t work as well as advertised. I have weeds that are growing just fine under mine…. sigh… oh well.

  14. You deserve that kitchen, Vicki. I’m intrigued by the cork floors. I may have to go walk on the cork even before I set myself down in your swing.

    PS You comin’ to see Nomo at Top of the Park in July?

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