- Dear Abby
- Games & Puzzles
- Events & Exhibits
- Food & Drink
- Arts & Music
- Movies & TV
When discoursing on various labor-intensive projects and activities I often invoke the legend of Sisyphus, a mythological Greek king condemned for eternity to push an enormous boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down.
Among all the ridiculously arduous tasks – hacking away at bittersweet, constructing barriers to fend off deer, slugs and other plant predators, splitting freshly cut hickory for firewood – perhaps the most Sisyphusian is digging post holes.
Ledge, tree roots and hardpan stubbornly thwart shovel, mattock and pry bar. What's more, even the most elegant hole eventually gets filled, so the digger has nothing to show for his efforts.
For the past week or so I have been engaged in this wretched business, and I really shouldn't complain because I have only myself to blame.
It all started innocently enough on an early morning run when one of my favorite aromas wafted through the crisp, early autumn air: Concord grapes ripening along the side of the road.
How wonderful it would be to pick grapes in the backyard each fall, I thought. I already enjoy blueberries fresh from the garden in summer, along with native raspberries, which grow in nearby woods and fields.
Concord grapes also grow wild, but they have a major flaw: seeds. For me, this pretty much ruins the dining experience. The solution: grow my own seedless table grapes.
I went online to research this project, and also have been consulting with a dairy farmer on my running route who recently added a vineyard. While I haven't settled on the varieties I intend to plant in the spring, this much I do know: Unless I cover my vines with netting I might as well concede at least half the crop to voracious avian freeloaders.
I learned this lesson with blueberries, and loyal readers will recall how last spring I finally built a solid wooden frame that supports a nylon net bird barrier.
A particularly determined catbird discovered a tiny slit and periodically sneaked into the enclosure, but I couldn't begrudge him a few meals. I won't have to worry about birds getting into the grapes for a while – it takes two years for the vines to produce fruit, and by then my fortress, modeled after the blueberry frame, will be impenetrable.
It consists of 21 pressure-treated posts, each measuring 5-by-8 inches wide and 8 feet tall. I extended the lengths of each by 2 feet by screwing sections of 2-by-4s. I then buried the posts in rows 8 feet apart about 2 feet deep and filled the holes with rocks and clay.
Next, I screwed in 2x4s that will serve much like rafters to support the netting.
Finally, I will reinforce the walls with metal mesh fencing to ward off the robo-deer, and then add the bird netting. It is adjacent to an existing garden fence, so I've only had to build three additional sides. This new section measures about 25 by 30 feet.
As for the vines, I'll plant them in rows beneath strands of baling wire. But before I can put in vines I have to transplant about 150 pine and spruce seedlings now occupying that space in what has been part of my makeshift tree nursery.
I know, I know, it's a lot of work for grapes, and I'll have to live another 230 years to recover the expense, not even factoring in the labor.
But one morning in the fall of 2014 I will stroll out to the garden, pick a bunch of grapes, eat them with my yogurt, and it will all have been worth it.
This week’s cold snap has spread a shimmering, silken coating over ponds and lakes throughout the region, creating some of the best conditions for skating in years, so you must get out now and enjoy it because who knows...
First of all, it’s way too soon to start whining about the cold. Let’s all agree that by March, if we’re still getting hammered by ferocious winds, driving snow and frigid temps, then a little complaining might be in...
The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that people, even — make that especially — hard-core adventurers/endurance athletes tend to set the bar way too high: bike across the country, qualify for the Hawaii...
When those uninitiated in the longstanding New Year’s Day tradition of running from Mystic to Fishers Island Sound and leaping into the icy water ask, "How can you stand it? Doesn’t it hurt?" we stoic veterans...
While kayaking the 341-mile Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany a few years ago I spotted another paddler a mile or so away headed in my direction. Having encountered only one or two other kayaks nearly a week into what turned out to be an...
Isn’t life great?! Gas is so cheap now I can get rid of my puny, poky, fuel-efficient econobox and get behind the wheel of an auto with plenty of ponies under the hood that any American would be proud to drive, just like the good...
After my overwhelming victory last year in a rake vs. leafblower contest I hoped I’d heard the last of those infernal, noisy, polluting contraptions — but while out for a run the other day, savoring the fall foliage, a familiar whine as...