Almost two years ago we moved from the house we spent our first eight years of marriage in, a house that was special to us in so many ways but, with four children, was literally bursting at the seams. If love grows best in little houses, maybe that explains why Kim and I LOVE each other so much! How small was it? So small that, while you were watching TV in the living room you get a pillow from the bedroom, then grab a drink from the fridge in the kitchen, all without leaving the couch. We loved the neighborhood and even some aspects of the house and the lot it was on, but with the arrival of number four we realized we couldn’t stay, and so began the process of putting our house up for sale and looking for another.
We found one, about three miles up the road into town, a decent sized 4 bedroom 2 bath brick house on a ¾ acre lot. It was apparent from the first viewing that it was a well-built, solid home. ‘Built like a tank’ was a phrase used by several people, from family to the home inspector. Turns out a lot of love went into that home, from its building to the people who lived there. We found out the couple who built it, the Jacksons, were the ones who lived in it until they both passed, first her, then him not long after. So it came about that, in 2010, we were the very first buyers of a home that was over 40 years old. Sure, it needed some updating, but it was a solid, well-built home and we are thankful for it.
Now let’s switch gears for a bit. A few weeks ago I wrote about homesteading as a great way to reclaim a small piece of certainty in these crazy, uncertain times. Homesteading can be done anywhere, from the city to suburbia to the rural back country. It can be done on a massive, totally self-sustainable scale, and on a small scale as well. The main thing is that the more people who take steps to ‘homestead’, the better off we will all be if/when times get hard. Last year we completed a small project that both added to our vision of ‘homestead’ and beautified our property, all at the same time – a grape arbor!
I’m not going to provide a whole lot of detail about how we did it (except for the picture) because everyone who builds one might want to do it just a bit different. The point is, a well-built and maintained grape arbor will add character to any backyard and provide delicious fruit for years and years to come.
Here are the basics – 4 4x4s dug at least 2 feet into the ground (if the ground is not level you will need to make sure they are the same height), 4 2x4s to make the rectangle on top, 1x2s for the grid on top, then wooden lattice for the sides. Use a drill and outdoor screws, not nails (except for the lattice). We made ours a ‘tunnel’ of sorts that leads from the side yard into our backyard, a place of solitude, surrounded by bushes, where the kids play and our family can eat outside. Then plant two or three grape vines on each side, water them a lot at first until the roots get established, slowly guide them up the arbor between the lattice. Don’t expect a whole lot of growth the year you plant them, but on year 2, watch out! They will reach the top and start to grow over. Our soil is clay and quite horrible, but our grapes are doing amazing despite that. Some friends with fertile soil have a veritable grape jungle growing on their arbors.
So, you might ask, what does this grape arbor, cool as it may be, have to do with the family who built and once inhabited your home? Neighbors still tell us stories of the couple who raised three children and shared a deep, enduring love for each other, their children, their church, community, and country. Their son told us stories about how his mom liked to keep lots of food and stores in the basement for a ‘rainy day,’ how she cooked from scratch and did a lot of things the ‘old way.’ We have a lot in common, a lot we could learn from them if they were here. At the closing of our house, their daughter looked at us and, with a tear in her eye, told us we were perfect for the house, that she knew it would be as good to our family as it was to hers. Theirs was a happy home, with a love that nurtured them and sustains them even now.
We never had the privilege of knowing the Jacksons, but we wanted to honor them in our own, small way. They had put brick in the landscaping up front to hold back the mulch. Placed in the soil upright, it might have been the style back in the 60’s but today, not so much. I removed that brick when we revamped the front landscaping. Instead of throwing it away, I took it and used it to create a walk-way under the grape arbor. I know for certain that Mrs. Jackson would have enjoyed those grapes, better yet enjoyed the frugality of finding a new use for old things.
Every time we walk on it, every time we cross from the side yard to the backyard where our family finds so much joy, we remember the family who loved each other well for over 40 years, who built a life and raised their children in the house that we now call home. It just feels right to honor them. Maybe we’ll stay there forever and maybe life will bring us elsewhere, but may our story be like theirs. When we are gone, may our children and others speak fondly of the love we shared and the testimony we had. This life is like a vapor – may we live it well.
“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” Romans 13:7
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