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
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
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.
TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL . . .
We remain ambivalent about our "stick" house and woods, which we
bought in 2004 -- before we realized just how much we liked to
"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
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
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
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.
NOT REALLY A SPRING "BREAK"
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
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 --
GARDEN OF WEEDIN'
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
Since spring arrived about three weeks early in Virginia this year the weeds
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
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
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
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,
If you own a house you know what I'm talking about. House and
yard work never ends.
READY OR NOT, HERE WE GO!
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.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil