Your Place: A time to repair, or maybe a time to reflect

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Summer has gone by quickly ó again. Time to start thinking about getting the house ready for winter.

It is tradition for my male readers, on the day this column appears each year, to bury the Real Estate section at the bottom of the recycling pile so their wives canít say, "But Al Heavens said you should clean the gutters." (Itís too expensive to just recycle a computer or smartphone, so you might as well grin and bear it.)

Today, I have to admit that I have fallen behind on my spring and summer chores.

I bought a gallon of exterior paint in early March to begin repainting the house for what I say is the last time. As a result of a rainy spring, with painting limited to weekends, and a hot and humid summer, with thunderstorms threatening constantly, I still have one-quarter of that first gallon of paint left.

With yard work, I have had some notable successes, however.

I built a fourth raised bed in late May, and it has produced a magnificent supply of yellow beans.

The three other beds gave us nearly eight weeks of butter-crunch lettuce before the heat caused it to bolt, but the fall lettuce is doing nicely now.

The herb garden near the kitchen is thriving, we have had more raspberries than we can consume, and the rain barrels I installed at the garage downspout are usually overflowing, saving, I hope, some money on the water bill. I donít believe in watering lawns, just gardens.

The downside to backyard gardening? The pests: rabbits; chipmunks; squirrels; and mosquitoes.

The rodents took 59 of the 60 apples on the two trees I planted two years ago. I ate the 60th, just to see how it would have tasted. It needed another month.

Iím ripening our abundant tomato crop by wrapping them in newspapers and keeping them in the garage.

"Look what I found in the pages of the Sunday Inquirer," I said to my wife as I showed her three nicely ripened large tomatoes.

Squirrels and chipmunks will take a bite out of them on the vine, then leave the rest of the tomato open to bugs.

Thatís the year for you ó tomatoes ripened in the hothouse, then in the field and finally in the garage.

The rabbits have taken out the zucchini in the garden, as well as the hosta on the north side of the house.

The mosquitoes seem to find me even when Iím just thinking about going outdoors ó and find me and find me and, well Ö

A major completed project involved gravel ó three-eighths of an inch pea shingles, to be precise, which I had delivered in a two-ton load in June.

With shovel and borrowed wheelbarrow, I moved the two tons from the driveway to the backyard patio, then used it to create paths and other landscaped spaces.

As with everything house-related, I will need more, so another ton will be ordered next month.

Unlike the two other houses I have owned over the last 35 years, this one has offered me a chance to create rather than just fix ó including a window seat with bookcases beneath it in the kitchen, a workshop in the garage, an office in the basement, and a wall in the master bedroom with a fireplace, bookcases, and storage for suitcases behind it.

If I donít feel like doing something ó too hot to paint, too tired to weed ó this house doesnít seem to care, if you know what I mean.

The other houses wouldnít let me alone. A problem unattended always grew worse.

You may be asking where that promised list of winter prep chores is. I have decided to take a page from my house and give you a break.

Enjoy the rest of the summer. Winter can wait.