8 Things That My Grape Arbor Says About Me


I bought my current house over 12 years ago, and as soon as I could make any changes, I began building a network of fences and privacy screens around my property.  I have always been an avid  gardener, and I even enjoy building things; therefore, I began combining those two interests to systematically  create a natural oasis for myself–a place where I can just sit alone, see no one, and do nothing.

  1. I am a closet recluse.

If I had my way, my house and gardens would be in the center of at least 100 acres of forest. I formerly had a small farm in Mississippi, and I loved it, but this is not Mississippi. I currently live on the Shore of New Jersey, this nation’s most populated state.  There is very little chance that I’ll be isolating myself on a farm here.  I decided that I’d need to find other ways to enclose myself and began building a web of trellises.

2. I have a champagne appetite and cannot even afford beer.

Money has always been a problem for me–a problem that I did not expect to have.  A bad marriage, followed by a bad divorce did not help things, but the greater problem is that my values are not the same as those of most other people.  Years ago, I noted that there are three basic kinds of people who comprise America’s economic structure:

  • those few who inherit a great fortune and live happily ever after
  • those who work all the time and have plenty of money to do whatever they want [but have no time to do it]
  • those who elect not to work incessantly and have the time to do what they would like [but have no money]

I fall into the last group.  I am not a lazy person.  In fact, on a regular basis, I do back-breaking work in my garden.  Yet, being cooped up too many hours a day simply strangles me; and if at all possible, I spend very little time in the corporate snare.  Ultimately, I have just enough money to get by.

3. I am very creative and can figure a way to make much of what I need.

I began married life as the wife of a guy who first went to dental school and then to medical school.  That period of my life became 18 years of learning to make do with very little.  When I was married, our furniture was handed down and/or came from thrift stores.  I would paint it, make cushions for it [out of handed-down fabric and worn-out inserts], and prop it into place–somewhere in our makeshift home.  This became the platform for my life.  If I wanted something badly enough, I could almost always find a way to rub two sticks together and create it.  That was how I approached my need for privacy screens in my yard.


Two years ago, I built a grape arbor along the eastern side entrance to my garden.  Before I began the project, I had collected some shutters, a Queen headboard, and an old fence from the garbage, and I simply began throwing it all together.  I figured that the grapes and vines would cover the structure anyway, this Sanford and Son framework would be fine until then.

4.  I do not allow fear to prevent me from trying new things.

5. I am impulsive and tend to just do things without an immense amount of planning.

My grape arbor was one of my first building projects and since then, I have learned several things: the most important is that long, heavy walls need to be attached to something more substantial than creative desire.  Unfortunately, for my first arbor, I just picked the spot where I wanted a dramatic entry and threw it together there.  I had seen my dad and my ex-husband make additions to my homes, and I decided that I could do the same. After I made that decision, I simply did it–figuring things out 1 nail at a time.

6.  My favorite tools are my wrecking bar, my hammer, my level, and heavy florist wire.

Within a year, the grape vines had covered the structure and after another year, the vines became a large, gnarled mass that began pulling my construction toward the ground.  It was time to use one of my favorite tools, my wrecking bar, and tear my hard work down so that I could begin again.


7.  If at first I don’t succeed, I tear the thing apart and try again.

This time, I am building my arbor differently.

  • I built the structure wide enough to anchor it to a wall of my house on one side and a tree on the other.
  • I saved my pennies until I could buy new, weather-treated lumber.
  • I built an 8′ x 8′ box out of 2′ x 8’s and until I could add crossbars, I attached the posts to that framework.  The box will become a raised bed.
  • Before I began hammering, I planned things a bit and I bought pre-cut lumber at Home Depot.

I don’t use many power tools.  The saw especially scares me. The new, improved me plans the project and gets the wood cut at Home Depot. The Home Depot guys even load the boards into my car for me. When I get home, I unload one board at a time and just nail those suckers together. Building  is really no big deal.  It is actually just like playing with big, heavy legos.  It is fun!

8.  You can’t teach a Sneetch – Dr. Seuss

One last note:

Today is garbage today, and last night, I put the Queen headboard out on the street.  Then I began having second doubts.  My new arbor is substantial and level, but perhaps a bit plain.  What if I want more ornamentation?  That headboard did look good, arching itself across my entry way.  This morning, I pulled the headboard back to the building pile. Hmmmmm!  Maybe I’ll use it agin.


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