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"We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all of our exploring  
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
~ T. S. Elliott
I'm writing this entry at the end of our six-week "spring break" at our house near Roanoke, Virginia.

We arrived on April 1 after traveling in our RV from the southwestern U.S., where we spent the winter playing "snowbird" with thousands of other people from climates with cold winters who were trying to stay warm. Tomorrow we'll be heading out again for a five-month trek in our 5th-wheel camper. This summer's destination is Alaska, where we hope to avoid the hot months in Virginia and stay cool -- but not too cool.

I call it living in the Dandelion Time Warp, a kind of eternal springtime when dandelions are in bloom most everywhere we go.

Our yard is full of them now. I like them better in the wilderness, where they add color to the landscape,  than in our yard, where they are simply weeds!

You can't see the dandelions now -- Jim mowed the lawn before I took this picture.  (4-9-12)

We go back to our house in the spring and fall because the temperatures are moderate and both seasons are so pretty in Virginia.

When we're there we do maintenance and improvements on the vehicles, house, and yard, have our annual and semi-annual appointments with medical providers, and get out most days to hike or ride our bikes at our favorite local venues so we can stay in shape.

In this entry I'll summarize some of the things we did around the house and yard. All the photos were taken in our yard the last six weeks.

Bearded iris and one of the pink peonies  (4-27-12)

Subsequent entries in this spring break series will cover critter stories I think you'll enjoy, photos from places where we hiked and biked, and a description of what Jim's been doing with the camper and truck this year. He's been a busy boy, getting the vehicles in tip-top condition for our projected 10,000-mile journey this summer.


We remain ambivalent about our "stick" house and woods, which we bought in 2004 -- before we realized just how much we liked to travel.

"Stick house" is the amusing term folks often use to describe the house or condo attached to "dirt" that they either sold to live full-time in their RVs -- or still own while they take extended trips in their RV, like we do.

Big house, little house -- each has its advantages and disadvantages.  (5-5-12)

I like returning to the house more than Jim does, but even I don't call it "going home."

Our true home is our Cameo 5th-wheel coach, our little rolling residence that lets us explore North America. The camper is where we live nine to ten months of the year. We have no strong ties to the Roanoke area, another reason it doesn't seem like "home" to us.

It's a very comfortable house in a scenic setting, however, and I like being there part of the time.

Above and below:  Japanese irises  (5-5-12)

I've mentioned previously about our desire to sell the house and travel full-time in our RV. It would be nice to have even more freedom than we have now and not worry about our property while we're on the road.

But . . .

The thing that holds us back from selling the house is the lousy real estate market for the past five years. Our property is part of a large "shadow inventory" of houses in this country whose owners would like to sell but don't want to take a big hit on their equity.

Bright pink Lady Slipper blooming in our woods  (4-24-12)

Each spring we talk to several real estate agents about the current market conditions. The last four years when we've talked to them it's been difficult to get accurate comps for our rural property with acreage because so few similar properties have been sold. It's easier to get comps if your house is in a subdivision or city neighborhood with lots of similar houses.

Another reason this is not a good time to sell our house is that we want to stay in it when it's listed for sale, not traveling several thousand miles away. We aren't willing to sacrifice our trip to Alaska this summer. We will try to sell the place next spring, however, unless the housing market is in even worse shape than it is currently.


One of the reasons we don't like returning to the house for a few weeks in  the spring and fall is all the work it represents.

We always have a long list of things we need to do while we're there. It's exhausting. In addition to routine maintenance we also get rid of more "stuff" and do some sprucing up so it'll be easier to sell when market conditions improve.

Last year we painted all the wooden decking, stairs, and walkways, sealed the driveway, cleaned out the unfinished part of the basement, rearranged and painted the garage, replaced an exterior door, and inserted leaf guards into the gutters to prevent leaves from collecting in them.

Jim installed SheerFlow gutter filters from J. B. Plastics last fall.  (11-20-11)

This spring we wanted to paint the exterior of the house but it rained too much and we put it off until  this fall. I did repaint the kitchen, stairway, and guest room in the basement.

We still have a lot of work to do to make the house and yard "show ready" before it's listed for sale. It's only going to get more difficult as the house -- and Jim and I -- get older.


I love that phrase! It's so apt for our large perennial beds, painstakingly planted by the older couple from whom we bought the place eight years ago.

The flower gardens are beautiful when they're in bloom, like the biblical Eden is depicted, but the weeds go crazy when we're gone all summer. Then there's trouble in paradise.

Several colors of bearded iris   (5-5-12)


Since spring arrived about three weeks early in Virginia this year the weeds already had a good head start when we got back to Roanoke at the beginning of April.

I've been out there gradually pulling weeds almost every non-rainy day since then. I've applied granular Preen weed preventer but I don't think it will do much good this time. I also added mulch in the last few days to try to keep the weeds at bay.

The Spidorwort plants are so thick that they crowd out the weeds under them.  (4-27-12)

One of our retired neighbors graciously mows our lawn while we're gone but we can't expect him to pull weeds, too. So I'll have even more to pull in the fall than I had this spring. <sigh>

We returned to the house earlier than we originally planned because of the mild, short winter. Even so, we missed seeing many of the early flowers this time.

Pink dogwood in our front yard  (4-3-12)

The daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinths, forsythia, peach tree, and redbud blooms were all gone when we returned. The white and pink dogwood flowers were peaking and soon fell off -- several weeks before the local dogwood festival was held!

That gives you an idea of how early spring came this year. But the dandelions are still blooming in mid-May! <wink>

The upside is that we've been able to enjoy several weeks of blooms that usually haven't reached their peak when we leave town for our summer trips in early May. We've seen the whole color range of our azaleas and irises (bearded and Japanese), the three different kinds of peonies have been beautiful, and the spidorworts are more lush than ever -- probably because of all that rain I mentioned.

My favorite type of peony is very intricate.  (5-5-12)

Although we missed some early spring flowers we have been able to see several varieties of summer flowers start blooming, like daylilies and coreopsis. We haven't seen them for several years because they usually aren't out this early.

The good thing about weeding and mulching is that it gets me up close with the flowers.

Two types of blue and white bearded irises  (4-27-12)

Other routine garden chores haven't been as rewarding but they were necessary for us to do:

  • mowing the lawn,
  • applying fertilizers and weed killers,
  • trimming trees,
  • thinning peaches,
  • pruning shrubs,

Doublefile viburnum shrub  (4-27-12)

  • clearing briars and cutting down junk trees in a large, un-mowed area of our property under a power line (shown below),

  • cutting firewood,
  • widening/mulching the mowing strip along the front walkway,
  • transplanting ground covers,
  • etc.

If you own a house you know what I'm talking about. House and yard work never ends.


We always have a long list of things to do when we're at the house each spring and fall. By chipping away at them each day we accomplished almost everything on our Spring 2012 list.

Weed-free for now. Hope it stays that way till we return in the fall.  (5-5-12)

The last week before we leave is always a bit frenetic, though. Certain things just can't be done until the last couple of days or the morning we leave. We're usually excited but tired when we begin each new journey.

This time is no different. Tomorrow morning we'll be on our way west again . . .

Next entry:  "spring break" wasn't all work and no play; we had some entertainment from the critters that call our property home.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil