My ultra fabulous almost-year-round outdoor room

I’ve been seeing a lot of magazine articles and pins on Pinterest about outdoor rooms lately. While some are very pretty, they’ve got nothing on me!

In the spring, after the worst of the spring pollen is over, I spend a weekend (or two or three) making my outdoor room on the back deck.

The deck is one of the features I really liked when we bought our house out here in rural Lowcountry 10 years ago.

I like that it is under roof. I like that it is a nice size for entertaining and chillaxing (13 by 17 feet).

I begin by pressure washing the ceiling and scrubbing the deck. Then, I start planning my design for the season.

I have about 40 house plants that spend the frost season (usually Nov. 1 to Apr. 1) indoors and I am always chomping at the bit to get them outside.

The far side of the deck has a built-in bench, great for extra seating. Brian plans on adding hinges to the bench top so I can use that space to store the outdoor cushions and bird food. Clever idea, huh? I can’t wait to replace that round wrought iron table and chairs, but for now, they serve their purpose.

We added two panels of lattice a few years ago to add a little dappled shading and a backdrop for hanging decorations. I use my small bistro table and a few concrete blocks and boards to create a cascade effect in that corner.

This is a good place to read a book, except in July and August (or today) when it is just too painfully hot in the middle of the day. I’d like to get one of those misting fans to cool it down some. It’s on my wish list for next year. Of course, the plants, outdoor ceiling fan and lattice help cool it a bit.

Near the end of October, I start watching the weather reports more closely to determine when the house plants must come back into the house. I plant some pansies in the flower boxes for winter color and then we’re ready for oyster roasting season!



Sam’s first snow

Since moving to the country, Brian and I have become real homebodies. We don’t go out, like on a date, very often. There are a number of reasons for that. One, is that we simply like being home. Two, is that we live so rural that a date typically involves a lot of miles driving. Three, is that we live on a fairly tight budget and I can cook a great meal so much better and so much cheaper than going out. (I enjoy cooking, too, by the way.) Four, when we do decide to spend money on fun, we prefer to spend it on our boat or going golfing.

So, rare indeed, was our planned date night for Friday. We would go to dinner and a hockey game at the Coliseum in North Charleston! The South Carolina Stingrays are the local team and although, we have lived here for eight years, we had never been to a game. We had wanted to do this for years. Watching a live game and rooting for your home team is so much fun. And, Brian really loves this game, too. He grew up playing hockey, and has great memories playing with his buddies on Campbell’s Pond and on a Junior League team, too. Brian was a great skater back in the day!

After, the game, we would have a late supper at one of the fine restaurants in Charleston, another rarity for us.

I went on-line, splurged and bought the best seats available for the game. Five rows back, center ice! After I paid the convenience fee for ordering on-line and the TicketMaster fee, the tickets were quite expensive. But, that was okay. This was going to be so much fun!

And, it was my long weekend off, too! I could putzy around all day on Friday and get ready in the late afternoon for our date night unrushed. I was so excited!

Then, the snow storm came. On Friday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m., it began to snow. It was expected to snow until midnight or later. Now, it is important here to explain snow storms in South Carolina. First, they are very rare. (To give you an idea of how rare they actually are here, this is our fourth in 10 years.) Second, because of our more temperate climate, when we do get a snow storm here, we usually just wait for the temperature to rise and the sun to come out to melt it.  Third, and because of items one and two just mentioned, South Carolina doesn’t need to own any real quantity of snow removal equipment like northern states do.

As the afternoon progressed, schools began closing early, evening activities were getting canceled, and the local governments were advising people to stay off the roads except for emergencies, yada, yada. And, I got more and more worried about making our trip to Charleston. The thought crossed my mind that maybe Brian and I could really make a big night of it and stay in a hotel in town, but then, I remembered Sam Dog. The cats would be fine without us, but our absence would be too long for him.

Surely, the Stingrays would cancel the game and we would get a refund or tickets to another future game. But, no! The Florida Everblades were already in town and the game would be played, which meant no refund for us if we were no-shows.

So, you can understand how very disappointed we were making the decision to not make that long drive in wintry conditions.

So, at 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon, we have no meat thawed to make dinner at home and, more importantly, no range to cook on anyway. You see, we removed the range while renovating the kitchen floor and would have to wait one more day before we could re-install it.

Brian suggested we order pizza. There is a pizzeria in our little town, and although it does not deliver, we could make the short drive over there to get it. Since I really hate pizza, I was thinking that this day could not get any more disappointing. But, then Brian suggested a second dinner alternative: dinner at Captain Kirk’s. Captain Kirk’s is an additional 15 miles further away, but it has an excellent menu!  We would go there for dinner and come home and watch the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics! If Captain Kirk’s was open, I voted for that idea! I called ahead and couldn’t believe someone answered and I got a reservation!

We warmed up the car (to get the snow to melt off the windshield, since most respectable South Carolinians do not own scrapers) and headed to the restaurant. The snow was coming down heavily now and sticking to the roads, but we got there safely.  We had a wonderful dinner, Brian had the 14 oz. prime rib and I had the Valentine’s Special, a petite filet and three lobster tails (small, but delish). Another inch of snow had fallen by the time we left the restaurant, but we managed to get home in one piece, too!

After we got home, I made a pot of coffee for our dessert drinks (Kahlua and coffee) and we settled in to watch the Olympics.

It was nice and I was happy that the evening would not be a total bust after all! But, after five minutes, the satellite went partially out, and we lost our local affiliate channels, including NBC, the only station carrying the Olympics. Darn it, again! So, we put on another station and watched the ending of a movie, The Royal Tenenbaums. Well, we watched it until the power went out! Oh, man! Nothing left to do now, but just go to bed and sleep the rest of this day away!

In the morning, our power was back on. And, we moved the range back into the kitchen. The news reported that the Stingrays won an exciting game; tied at 3 goals each at the end of regulation play, the Stingrays won in the shootout! And, Sam Dog loved his first snow! 


Hi ho the derry-o, a fishing we will go

The sun was out when we left Folly Landing, but it was cold and mostly cloudy all day.

The sun was out when we left Folly Landing, but it was cold and mostly cloudy all day.

Finally, after weeks of snafus that kept us from getting out on the water, we went fishing and crabbing and oyster harvesting on Saturday.

It was dark and quite chilly when we left the house early Saturday morning. The boat was more crowded with stuff than usual because we took an extra cooler for our sandwiches and beer so that the BIG cooler could bring home our haul of fish, crabs, and oysters! And, of course, we were also carrying the crab pot and our muck boots this time, too.

It's good to see that the dolphin are still here. Soon, they will be gone for the winter.

It's good to see that the dolphin are still here. Soon, they will be gone for the winter.

We arrived at the landing at high tide. And, what a high tide it was, too! I’ve never seen the water that high and I had to put on my boots just to get to the dock!

We had talked to another fisherman when we were buying live bait shrimp a few minutes earlier at Crosby’s and he was launching his boat at the same time we were. He had said he tore up the red drum last week near the abandoned clam farm and was going back to the same spot to try his luck there again.

My birthday present loaded with chicken necks and ready to go!

My birthday present loaded with chicken necks and ready to go!

Brian and I headed to our favorite fishing spot, probably a couple of miles away by water. The air was cold and I wished I had my ear muffs and gloves. On the way, we found a place we thought would be good for crabbing. The water there was about 20 feet deep, so Brian rigged the trap with enough rope that the pot could sit on the bottom. We put a couple of chicken necks in the food trap and dropped the cage overboard. The plan would be to come back to this spot when we were done fishing for the day and pull up a pot full of crabs.  

This is our crab pot marker. We'll come back in a few hours to check out catch!

This is our crab pot marker. We'll come back in a few hours to check out catch!

We began fishing in earnest. And, we were catching quite a few fish. I caught my first one before Brian had even tossed his line in the water for the first time! It was a small croaker (named thus because it makes a croaking sound just like a frog). Not big enough to keep. And that’s how the morning went. We caught lots of fish, black bass, whiting, croakers, spotted bass, but few big enough to keep. But, it was still fun. We decided to try our luck up near a place called the Long Dock, near Bowen’s Restaurant. 

Most oyster beds are under water at high tide.

Most oyster beds are under water at high tide.

The tide was on its way out and in about another two hours, the oyster beds would be exposed and I would just hop out of the boat and collect a bushel or two.

On our way to the new spot, we passed our crab pot and decided to pull it up to see if there were any crabs in it yet. No crabs yet, but Brian adjusted the rope to about 16 feet, since the water level was now that much lower there. (See, with crabbing, you worry that if your line is too long, the excess might float enough that a passing boat’s propeller might cut it and your pot would be lost forever on the bottom of the sea.)

Oh, yeah. I'm up to my knees in muck!

Oh, yeah. I'm up to my knees in muck!

When we got to Long Dock, we hung a left into a smaller channel and caught a bunch of whiting there. Some were big enough to keep. And, after a little lunch, we noticed quite a few exposed oyster beds around us. Yep, it was almost two o’clock and low tide.  And, we were at one of the state oyster beds, a place where we are allowed to harvest oysters! We beached the boat against an oyster bed and I donned my boot and rubber gloves and grabbed a hammer. I had seen a video on how it is done and I was prepared. I got out of the boat and pulled a cluster of oysters out of the mud. As I began to hammer away at some of the smaller oysters (these will fall back into the mud and continue growing, leaving just the bigger ones to keep) I began to sink, and sink, and sink further into the mud. Uh oh. I finally stopped sinking right at the top of my boots. And, so difficult to pull my feet out of that mud as it kept sucking my boots down under. What a muddy muddy business this is! And, if you fall you can really get yourself cut up on the oysters, too. And, so, I decided that oystering is not for me and that I will gladly pay for someone else to pick mine for me.

Now, what I haven’t mentioned so far is that one day last week, Sam Dog had a hold of one of my muck boots (I keep them near our back door to slip on for some of my outdoor projects) and he must have torn a little hole in the bottom of it because my right foot got wet and muddy.

So, it was the end of the fishing excursion and we were on our way back to our crab pot to pull it out of the water. On our way there, we passed a boat, carrying two bushels of oysters (the maximum for a recreational fisherman) on its way back to the landing. He was going to have some mighty fine eating tonight.

I got the camera out to snap a picture of our crab pot just as Brian pulled it out of the water. Up it came and when it broke the surface, we were surely disappointed as there was not even one crab in it!

You can crab year round in South Carolina, but I’m sure there are seasons where crabbing is better than at other times. I’m guessing that most of the crabs have migrated back to the ocean for winter. I will now probably have to wait for spring to try again.

But, that’s okay. I have lots and lots of trips to make to the beach and a lifetime of crabbing ahead of me.