Monthly Archives: April 2010

I wrote earlier in the week about helping my Dad build an enclosure for his new blueberry plants.  It’s an 8’x10’x8′ structure assembled from 1×2’s, a couple of 2×4’s, and some chicken wire.  We finished everything but the door – I had framed it up, but it needed to be painted, covered with wire, and hung in the frame we set up.

Dad painted it and covered it with chicken wire, and got some hinges to hang it in the door frame.  He said it didn’t take much adjustment at all to have it hang correctly – pretty good, considering the ground out at the garden isn’t exactly level, so the enclosure isn’t truly square.

Anyway, he sent out a picture of his “anti-bird machine”, with the note that any ensuing blueberries would probably cost about $125 per pint. Here it is:

All finished, with the door hung.

The blueberry plants

Well, sort of.  There aren’t actually any blueberries yet, but there will be. My Dad got some blueberry plants with the intention of

One of the sides sans chicken wire

growing them for the first time.  He’s been doing gardens for as long as I can remember, but never planted blueberries.  One of his brothers told him about growing them, so Dad wanted to try it.  His brother also told him “if you don’t put some kind of cage or barrier around them, you won’t get any berries, because the critters will eat every one.”

With that advice in mind, Dad designed an enclosure in which to surround the blueberry plants once they’re in the ground.  He planted the berries this past week, so he needed to get something together relatively quickly so the deer and other woodland creatures that surround his place in Nottoway County (a few miles from Crewe) won’t eat the plants.  It is a pretty simple design, made to be as lightweight as possible, and measuring 8′ W x 10′ L x 8′ H.  It has a roof, of course, so the birds can’t fly in there, and the squirrels won’t be able to clamber to the top of the walls and jump down to the delicious berries.  The only thing it can’t keep out is a bear – Dad had one of those show up a couple of weeks ago and empty out his bird feeders (destroying one in the process).

Chicken wire attached

We talked on the phone earlier in the week, and Dad said he thought it was a pretty simple project, and he didn’t think he’d need any help from me.  He’s been undergoing some medical treatments, and just this week he started to experience pretty serious fatigue as a result.  Within a couple days of our conversation, he called me back and asked if I could go out to his place and give him a hand.  I had to sing in a wedding on Saturday, so we set Sunday afternoon as the appointed time.  Debbie decided to go along and cut grass while we were there – Dad’s place has several acres of grass spread around and amongst the Pine Forest (what we call the place).  She likes riding his big ‘ol mower, so it’s not really like work for her.  We decided to get there around 1:00 PM, after Mom and Dad had returned from church.

We were later arriving at Pine Forest than we had planned.  Dad called while were were on Rt. 288 to ask if we could stop at the Lowe’s on Hull St. and get a bundle of 1x2x8’s to use for corner braces, and to frame a door in one end of the enclosure.  That place was a madhouse; everybody and his brother was there shopping for – oh, I don’t know- everything.  That stop set us back about 30 minutes.  A stop at the McDonald’s in Amelia cost us another 10 minutes. We finally got to Pine Forest around 1:30.

Dad got Debbie started on cutting the grass, and I jumped into cutting corner braces for the wall/ceiling sections that he had already put together. In addition to pre-drilling (the 1×2’s would split if you didn’t) the braces to be screwed to the frames, we put together the rest of the frames, and framed an opening for a door in one end.  Nothing fancy, just a way to get in and out when the berries actually arrive.  This took a couple of hours to finish.  Then, we applied chicken wire to the rest of the frames that Dad

Dad working on one of the sides

hadn’t previously covered.  That stuff is a pain – we stapled it on, and had to run two rows for each length of wall/ceiling or end piece.  When you cut it with wire cutters, the remaining ends have a tendency to catch you by the fingers and make tiny little cuts (that are sore the next day when you’re typing).

Finally, we had the pieces completed.  Now, we had to cart them a hundred or so yards from the garage/driveway to to the edge of the garden where the blueberries are planted.  We used Dad’s ATV to cart them out there.  Wall and ceiling sections within reach of the garden, we started standing them up and assembling them in a temporary fashion with small pieces of rope.  He’s going to “permanently” assemble the whole thing with zip-ties, so it can be dis-assembled without a lot of effort.  Getting the ends of the wall sections was a little tricky, because the ground out there isn’t level. We used a couple of pieces of 2×8 material to provide a level surface for the corners.  Getting the ceiling up and adjusted was also a little tricky; even when things are perfectly square and level, there are always gaps.

We finished assembling the thing in about 30 minutes.  Dad has only to make a couple of minor adjustments to the ceiling to close a couple of gaps that birds or squirrels could probably squeeze through if they really tried.  Oh, and he needs to put the chicken wire on the door I framed up, and find a way to attach it to the doorway.  This could be done with metal hinges, or he might just drill some holes in the door frame and the stile of the door and attach it with zip-ties.  Those  things are pretty handy.

Standing it up

Here’s some pictures of the building/assembly process.  I took them with my iPhone, so the quality isn’t great (left my Canon DSLR in Charlotte at my brother’s house last weekend – brilliant) – but you get the point. I’m looking forward to tasting some of the fruits of our labor in a couple of months.  At least I hope so; there’s a chance the plants won’t bear any fruit to next year, which would be too bad.

View from the house end of the garden


Finished - less the door

Some of the folks who know me know I can sing a little.  I’m not a great vocalist; I can carry a tune, and I work hard to get it right, but no one’s going to mistake me for someone who can really sing.  I’ve sung in my church choir for a long time, and do the occasional solo when the it’s the right kind of song.  I’ve done some musical theater, and had the chance to sing some really great original music (by Ron Klipp) in WEAG’s Glorious Christmas Nights productions.  I’m even going to sing the National Anthem at a Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game later this summer – they had open tryouts, and I had never done that before, so I figured I’d try it at least once.

Singing in front of a couple of thousand people doesn’t really make me nervous anymore.  You have a little of the butterflies (if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you, in my opinion), but as soon as you get started, there’s no more fear.  It’s funny, when I’m in the spotlight, and I can’t really see any of the people in the audience, I don’t even feel as though I’m being watched – at least not by anybody I know.  Even in church (where it’s lit pretty well), I never look at an individual face; it’s just “a crowd out there.”

Lauren and Me

Then there are the weddings.  I don’t do these very often – usually only for folks that know me from church or immediate family.  Funny, after not doing one for maybe 10 years, this summer I’ve been asked to sing at two of them. Two songs this weekend, and one in June.  I’m singing “The Prayer” (done most famously by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli) at both of them.  My partner will be a young women, Lauren,  who’s young enough to be my daughter. fact, she’s one of my daughter Lindsey’s best friends, and a vocal music major at James Madison University.  We’ll be doing the song at the wedding of another of Lauren and Lindsey’s best friends.  It was an interesting moment of serendipity when Lauren, Lindsey and Kimberly (the bride), along with some of their other friends, arrived at the decision to ask me (?) to sing with Lauren.  She  has a very pretty soprano voice, and will do a good job of helping people not to notice me so much.  The other song I’m doing for this weekend’s wedding is called “I Will Be Here” by Stephen Curtis Chapman.  It’s a nice song, but much more quiet and tender than the kind of stuff I’ve been doing lately.

Anyway – the thing about singing at weddings is this: usually, you doing it for a family member or friend.  The last thing you want to do is louse up someone’s wedding video soundtrack by botching a song.  Consequently, there’s more fear attached to being a wedding singer than anything else I do.  Wedding singing carries the highest risk of humiliation – let’s face it; folks will probably remember it for a long time if you mess up someone’s wedding ceremony.  I don’t need that kind of recognition. The setting is daytime (usually), and you expect that there will be a fair number of people you actually know in attendance.  There’s a lot better chance that you’ll eyeball someone you know, and get distracted.  Getting distracted while singing quiet, tender weddings songs can be dangerous.  Here’s hoping I don’t get distracted, and Meghan’s and Kimberly’s respective weddings aren’t even remotely remembered because of me.

There are a lot of geese around Innsbrook (the business park where I work), and they go all over the place. They hold up traffic while crossing the main road through the place, and everywhere is their bathroom. In the 10+ years I’ve been working here, I’ve never seen one doing this.

See it on Flickr