A Pergola

This week, between office days and ration building, we built a pergola.

When we came to this house, just over nine years ago, it had no deck. The doors to our bedroom and the sunroom opened to a four foot drop.

The empty deck

The empty deck


We built a deck, but since it was on the south side of the house, found it really too hot to use during the summer months. We’ve tried various sorts of shade, umbrellas, and a canvas gazebo, but since the deck is exposed to strong west winds these solutions mostly ended up on the lawn in a tangle of cheap tin.

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Its handy to have a helper to get things level and square

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The finished product

We’ve moved most of our outdoor lounging to the shaded patio on the east side of the house, but, its not handy to the kitchen for eating outside, and the deck looks a little forlorn with nothing on it.

A pergola seemed like it might be the answer so we got measuring, and figuring, and looking at pictures on the internet. By Monday I had a material list and by Tuesday night the basic structure was in place. It wasn’t where we had
originally planned to put it because of issues with the roof line of the house and the placement of posts and windows. This one went so well though, and really adds to the deck, so we’ve decided to build a second one and cover the entire deck.

Once it stops raining we’ll go out and set the posts.


A Pattern Emerges

There is a pattern emerging in my varied and somewhat crowded life. The pattern comes thanks to the council of the church where I am currently working as interim pastor. This position is not full time, but, they asked me to keep regular office hours to allow parishioners to drop into the church office to visit. Their request was likely good for all of us.

The regular office hours have become the framework around which the rest of the week is built. Mondays have become a study day, working with texts, translating, researching, digging into commentaries. I thought I might start sermon writing  Monday as well, but so far writing doesn’t start before the next office day on Wednesday. Tuesday has become a sheep and goat day, on the road with the Threefold Consulting hat on (no I don’t really have corporate hats). Wednesday, besides being a writing day, is also a busy day for folks dropping in. Coffee Break, the midweek women’s Bible study happens Wednesday mornings all  of them go by my office, with happy greetings.  Some pop in for a moment of two just to say hi, to pass on a prayer request, or a few words of encouragement. By Wednesday evening the sermon is roughed out (a bunch of it still roughly in my head) a new blog post is written, my part of the bulletin is submitted, prayer items are updated, and the service is put together. A busy day, but totally doable since each job is not very big.

Thursday is a day in class at the seminary so readings need to be done sometime before. They do get done,mostly in the gaps between other things. I thought I remembered the profs saying there would be about one hundred pages a week to read. Somehow, It seems to be more than that. Maybe it was a hundred pages for each prof.

After class, its off to the farmer’s market for fresh vegetables and farm calls on the way home. From this point back to Monday the structure peters out depending on what the weekend holds. Friday morning has become a personal care time on the bicycle or at the coffee shop (or both) with the afternoon devoted to the things the week did not finish.

Structure can be a good thing. In the past couple of years my classes provided the place I needed to be and the task which needed to be completed. It was not as regular as what I am experiencing now which is in a way both confining and freeing.

A Change of Pace (or maybe just activity)

I installed a new garage door opener today. For some, doing such a thing wouldn’t seem like such a feat, and a few years ago, it wouldn’t have been for me either. But, since going back to school I am more likely wear the letters off keyboards (the H, N and M are disappearing off of this nine month old Samsung) than I am to wear out any of my tools. They hang patiently in the shop, waiting.

About a month ago our garage door opener committed hari kari, grinding its inner gears to oblivion. We’re not sure if the opener’s demise had anything to do with the service guy turning up the power of the machine after it didn’t want to lift the door all the way on cold days, but none the less, it is done. J got busy signing up for sale notifications at Canadian Tire for a replacement and last night, notified, we went in a picked up a new one at 40% off.

It's just a garage door opener, but it was my Saturday project.

It’s just a garage door opener, but it was my Saturday project.

Of course, it all comes in pieces and while the instructions were pretty good, they didn’t always match the pieces in the box, I likely ended up putting it all together twice. Then there was the trip into the attic to figure out which wires were which since we were able to use the hook-ups from the old unit. The wiring was covered with six inches of blown cellulose insulation which made the job of  finding and identifying the wires more difficult.

Never the less, the new unit is up and working, and for an afternoon I was able to use my mind and body for something other than writing. There is a feeling of satisfaction in that.


Spring has now been with us for well over a month. Temperatures have been warmer than normal and we seem to be missing a lot of rains. We did get a good soaker a couple of nights ago and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

We planted trees just the day before the rain came. Planting trees on our property has become a bit of an annual practice. The property right around our house is very hilly. Our lawn had some slopes that would stop our four wheel drive lawn mower and were maybe not the safest to cut. Over the past four years the steepest bits have been planted to a variety of evergreen trees (200 so far). We have also planted deciduous trees, maple, ash and soft maple around the perimeter of the lawn and now inside the perimeter as well. There are about 50 of those, some came from the bush on the property while others were purchased as seedlings. Recently, I’ve been transplanting volunteer maple and ash that have grown in the flower beds.

Getting deciduous trees to start has been a bit of a hassle. The first ones we planted came from the bush about six years ago. We dug them up carefully, used a post hole digger to make a good hole, and even used a bit of bone meal to provide nutrients. While some of these trees have taken off and are now over ten feet tall, others are smaller now than when we planted them, and still others have died and been replaced. Granted, the soil where these trees a planted is not the best with sand and gravel in some areas. Where the soil is good the trees have grown.

ImageWe have actually had the best luck with the deciduous trees that came from the nursery. I don’t think that it is because the stock is so much better, but rather, because we discovered Tubex tree tubes at the same time. Deciduous seedlings, in their natural environment, grow underneath the forest canopy. I’m taking them from there and asking them to grow in the open. The tree tube protects the small tree from the wind, creates a bit of a moist environment, and creates a greenhouse effect that gives the plant a little more heat. The results are amazing compared to trees without the tube. The trees reach out of the tube and will grow two to three feet in a year compared to the six inches that their non tubed brothers and sisters manage.

Last week, just before the rain, we put in a hundred more evergreens, balsam fir, white pine, red pine, and white spruce. I have less lawn to cut again and we will need to put up with a few years of ugly, waiting for the trees to have enough height to be seen above the grass. The wait will be worth it.

Of all the things I love most about spring, the best is wandering around looking at how all the things we have growing here change. I love to imagine the possibility of rows of trees towering over me. Spring is such an amazing time of growth and renewal.

God is at work in all of it.

Another Semester Gone

Tonight, I went to the last Waterloo Lutheran Seminary class of the winter 2012 semester. At the beginning of the class I handed in the last assignment as well, a 29 page exegesis of Philippians 2:1;13. Before this year I never could have imagined that I could write over 7000 words about a piece of the Bible that is about 250 words long. Now I can. That’s progress, isn’t it?

The class was short tonight so I’m home a little earlier than usual, just after 10 pm. I’m tired and sick. Went to the doctor yesterday for antibiotics to fight off the second dose of bronchitis this year. I’m sure that the sickness has to do with trying to do too much and running myself down, but, I don’t have time to slow down.

I start Greek on Thursday and still have four weeks of an online course ahead of me as well. In May, I’ll start an undergrad philosophy course that is required to round out my undergraduate degree, now over 30 years old, to the specifications of Calvin Seminary.

The journey goes on and it has been a bit uphill. There is flatter trail ahead (I hope)

For Everything There is a Time.

The Revised Common Lectionary uses the following passage as one of the readings for New Year’s Eve. Many of us know the first eight verses, maybe not the words exactly but the back and forth contrasting style of the “times”. These words have be made popular musically and they ring true in our lives. There is a time for good and bad, for happy and sad, for singing and silence. Our lives are contrasts.

I wondered why the lectionary passage continued past the familiar first eight verses. It seems to move into another territory. And yet, tucked away in the words of toil, is that small statement that says so much “moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds”. We are able to compare one time to another. We can write our Christmas letters from memory. We can dream about what the future could hold. What a gift!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

9What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-12, NRSV)

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are a good time for remembering and dreaming. We have been blessed here in this household again in the past year. God continues to walk along beside us on our journey (it’s a good thing because He knows the destination). We continue to look forward to what the next days, weeks, and months will bring. I hope that you can as well.

Happy New Year


A Job Finished…Well Almost

You may remember my post from a couple of weeks ago, written as we began a construction project to house our hot tub in a more pleasant location. Well the job is virtually finished. Our contractor did an amazing job finishing his part of the project in four days…by himself. We finished putting down the patio on Saturday. I still need to build a flowerbed at the end but apart from that, its done.

We moved the hot tub in today with the help of a neighbor with pallet forks on his tractor. He helped to push it into the corner, where it takes up a little less room than expected.

Last night we invited folks from church to see the pictures of our Camino trip earlier this summer. They enjoyed our new “fire bowl” which allows us to have a fire right on the patio. It was a little crowded for the twenty or so that showed up.  The roof was really appreciated when it started to rain.