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A brief retreat to the peace of Mo Saoirce Hermitage

With all the crazy in the world — you know, the destruction of Western Civilization and all that — I thought it was time for a brief blogging retreat to the former Ye Olde Wreck, now known as Mo Saoirce (My Freedom) Hermitage.

So here are some moments of peace and beauty for you.

The hermitage in morning light and shadow

The light gray gravel heaped beside the driveway will soon go on the top of the slope in front of the house as part of my nefarious campaign to rid the world (at least my world) of lawns. It’s what they call 2″ to 8″ cobble, so has a mix of small and very large rocks. This is exactly what I wanted for that spot and was lucky to find it in the next town over.

Roses on the rocks

A rose bush, past its seasonal prime and dropping petals, bows over the rock garden, where the sedum I planted last August continue to thrive, despite my best efforts.

Sedum volunteers

Speaking of the resilience of sedum, the four flats of it I bought last year at an end-of-season sale sat for a month next to the house before The Wandering Monk, the neighbor boy, and I were able to get the rock slope built and covered with topsoil. I feared the already-long wait in the flats might harm them. But to the contrary, in addition to them growing like Audrey 2 amid the rocks, this spring I discovered they’d put down roots (or whatever passes for roots with sedum) on the gravel where they’d sat all that time.

My first response was to nuke them with Roundup. I actually succeeded in killing a few of the brave little plants. Then I thought better of it and let them grow. I expect by next year they’ll be climbing the walls like old ivy and strangling passing cars.

Credit the sedum, not my gardening skills. I did everything I could to ruin their lives — and failed.

That thing they’re sitting next to is the bottom of a rain chain.

New gravel, streetside

The neighbor boy — now nearly 16, strong, friendly, and responsible in the tradition of eldest sons — comes to the rescue once again. The Wandering Monk has been around a few times this year and there’s much that I couldn’t do without him. But for odd, COVID-related, reasons he’s limited his client work.

I miss him. Still, his absence prompted me to tackle a lot of projects I didn’t at first think I could complete on my own. I’m proud of that. But here’s the neighbor boy off in the distance in the above photo, making my life easier. And I like that, too.

Done door

This is one of those projects I didn’t think I could do.

If you’re a regular reader you’ve seen this door before. All I did was finally trim the side that faces the living room. “So what?” you might be thinking, “This broad thinks it’s tough to cut a few 45-degree angles and nail up some 4-inchers?” You’d be right if that’s all I had to do. But let me just say that, thanks to some seriously bad planning on my part when the door project began, this was the most complicated trimming project in the house, and it was a whole lot more than it looks.

The screen porch starts to be prettified

It’s impossible to get a good picture inside the screen porch. Suffice to say that two months ago it had bare stud walls — and I had three sheets of 1/4-inch plywood left over from an earlier project. The Monk cut and nailed the plywood and suddenly the porch started looking amazingly good. For the last several weeks I’ve been trimming and staining.

The last rhodie of summer

Rhododendrons are nearly a religion around here. They grow up to 40-feet high in the old-growth forests (so I’ve heard) and sprout more modestly from every suburban lawn. I think you can be accused of heresy if you don’t have one in your yard.

So last year, when the end-of-season garden sale became an end-of-end-of-season sale, I picked up this little guy (below), 75% off.

It wasn’t looking so good. Its leaves were brownish and covered with some sort of powder. But what the heck, for $10 I’d see what I could do with it. I took it home, potted it, spritzed the leaves with Daconil (anti-fungal) and left it all winter. This spring it was still powdery, so I hit it with more Daconil and waited.

May — rhodie blooming time — crept past. Everybody else’s rhodies but mine exploded in bloom. I figured I had a loser. Then, just as other rhodies were starting to drop their blossoms, this happened:

I’ve never watched rhodies all that carefully, so I was a bit surprised when after two weeks, the vibrant reds and magentas softened:

Now, two or three weeks later, it looks more like I expect my plants to look:

But that was fun.

I hope you enjoyed these few moments away from the madness and that you have a serene and beautiful retreat of your own where you can de-stress.


  1. Comrade X
    Comrade X June 23, 2020 4:43 pm


    Those outdoor chairs looks to me like a nice place to enjoy an adult beverage and kick back!

  2. MP
    MP June 23, 2020 4:50 pm

    What a lovely retreat ye olde wreck has become, Claire! Congratulations on finally receiving substantial reward for all the years of hard work you’ve put into it.

  3. Claire
    Claire June 23, 2020 4:58 pm

    Thank you, Comrade X and MP.

    Yes, MP, “substantial reward” is exactly right! After all those horrid, scary, dubious labors merely to keep the house from falling apart from rot and drunken design, it’s a joy to work on finishing projects.

    To think of all those years when multiple people, including contractors, advised me to tear the place down because it wasn’t worth saving!

    And yes, Comrade X, I do sit and enjoy my (and the Monk’s and the neighbor boy’s) handiwork, sometimes with a lovely glass of wine. Or sometimes just watch the view down to the wetland.

  4. Fred M
    Fred M June 23, 2020 6:11 pm

    Claire your home is beautiful and appears to be very comfortable amid all the greenery and flowers. What a joy!. I love your gravity chair and can envision you spending many hours watching the trees grow (somebody has to). You did a great job on your rhodie if it was me, it would have turned black. 8-(
    The outside of your home is as beautiful as the inside. You have missed your calling. 😎
    My prayers are with you for a happy and peaceful summer.
    More flowers please!

  5. John Wilder
    John Wilder June 23, 2020 8:22 pm

    Man, I need to work my kids harder.

    (Note to self: pick up beer cans next to the hot tub.)

  6. firstdouglas
    firstdouglas June 24, 2020 9:34 am

    I have been hoping for a full, front-of-the-house view for quite some time, and find the look of your place as amazing as I suspected I might. And your interior door and glass choices create a delightful effect. Thanks for taking the time with the update, always welcome. Glad you are enjoying the results while yet finishing the here and there remaining projects!

  7. larryarnold
    larryarnold June 24, 2020 2:02 pm

    Really nice completion of a long, long project. Congratulations.

  8. Joel
    Joel June 24, 2020 3:18 pm

    Lovely! I always enjoy views of your unbelievably now-beautiful house.

  9. Those People
    Those People June 24, 2020 3:24 pm

    In this nutzoid facemask climate (fellow humans are my enemies, except for the benevolent State), Claire’s two chairs out by the street say “Come sit with me, friend.”

  10. Grant Davis
    Grant Davis June 27, 2020 12:10 pm

    Our local Home Depot has a 10 yard (shallow 3 foot) dumpster where they discard plants (without their plastic pots). We have gotten hundreds of dollars worth of plants, from annuals to roses and lavender and rosemary. I have also scooped old dogfood bags full of the potting soil to use in our yard. One local HD kicks us out while the other let’s us glean.

  11. Grant Davis
    Grant Davis June 27, 2020 12:11 pm

    Our local Home Depot has a 10 yard (shallow 3 foot) dump where they discard plants (without their plastic pots). We have gotten hundreds of dollars worth of plants, from annuals to roses and lavender and rosemary. I have also scooped old dogfood bags full of the potting soil to use in our yard. One local HD kicks us out while the other let’s us glean.

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