Root cellar

'Column idea'

Posted 8/17/21

This month I was dallying around, nursing my writer’s block, until I reached my wits’ end trying to come up with a topic for this newspaper column.

 As deadline loomed, I …

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Root cellar

'Column idea'


This month I was dallying around, nursing my writer’s block, until I reached my wits’ end trying to come up with a topic for this newspaper column.

 As deadline loomed, I furtively turned to Google, looking for a way out with an easy fix. I hate to admit it, but as I huddled over my computer, I typed in the words “column idea.” Turns out such a general search brought me none of the unique, timely, and/or profound subject matter I was searching for. Instead, I was met with a barrage of websites about none other than porch posts. As in, “75 Beautiful Farmhouse Porch Column Pictures and Ideas.” Or how about “11 Timeless Porch Column Ideas.” All complete with page after page of images of rustic homestead entrances and load-bearing pillars in the Corinthian style.

This is not what I meant, I thought despairingly. But then again… huh… well… maybe? Why yes, it is, I thought, observing how inspiration works its hop, skip and jump. The answer to my own column dilemma was outside my own front door.  In fact, it was my own front porch.  

The front porch of our 168-year-old house is narrow with square columns and a railing. Each column is topped with a block of wood designed to prohibit Phoebes from making their nests there. We call it “Phoebe defense.” The aim is to keep the birds from messing up the porch but also to help them raise their young. It helps if the mother bird doesn’t feel the need to flee the nest every time the screen door opens.

As with many a homeowner, our sweet, short weeks of summer are devoted to a frenzy of home repair projects to be completed before the snow flies. The last few weeks have been dedicated to the repair and maintenance of the front porch. My husband, John, (who really didn’t want to deal with the porch this summer) grudgingly decided the time had come to replace the last of the non-treated lumber that had been used in the porch deck. Some of the boards had not been replaced in about 50 years and some spots were getting soft. A triage of the spongy spots revealed rotting boards that likely wouldn’t last much longer. John went to work replacing the decayed boards with new, pressure-treated lumber trucked out from the lumberyard in Hancock. Then he painted the decking in the maroon color that the porch has sported since the 1970s, when the previous owners (my cousins) remodeled the house and installed indoor plumbing.

In a house as small as ours, the porch serves almost as an extra room in the summer. We drink our coffee in the mornings as we sit on the porch and look out at the hayfield in front of our house. The windmills at the windfarm in Waymart, PA, about 25 miles away, can be seen glinting on the far mountain ridge. Fog rises off the Delaware River in the near valley. We often eat our meals there as well if weather permits. During the pandemic, the porch has been especially valuable for visits with guests outdoors where we can sit with distance and listen to the windchimes. In the evenings we are surrounded by the glow of candles from John’s hodge-podge assortment. I never knew he even liked candles until he developed a passion for collecting them during these dark pandemic years. Oh boy… John’s candles. But that is a topic for another column.

porch, column, writer's block, Phoebes, home repair


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