The Quest for Shade

Gazebo: Noun

A small building, especially one in the garden of a house, that gives a wide view of the surrounding area.

The Black Gazebo

Origin

Mid 18th century perhaps humorously from gaze, in imitation of Latin future tenses ending in -ebo.

Oxford Dictionary

A screen porch isn’t a luxury—it’s an essential way to celebrate

summer weather and the outdoors.

Sarah Susanka, The Not So Big House

I have skin cancer. The first melanoma was surgically removed twelve years ago. The second one more recently. Before, between and since those times, a dozen or so less deadly cancers have been burned out, dug out, or eliminated with chemicals.

One dermatologist told me that with skin like mine—pale, freckled, and mole-dappled—I could get cancer walking across a parking lot. Her rules:

  • stay inside between 10 AM and 3 PM
  • wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, sun glasses and a wide-brimmed hat
  • cover whatever skin is exposed with sunscreen

I do most of those things. The ten to three timeline is difficult. Weeds don’t stop growing during the height the day and birds need fresh water. As to the clothing, my over-sized, floppy-rimmed, lilac hat and my short stature bring to mind a lavender toadstool.

Me in my lilac sun-hat

Seven years ago, when we decided to move to Prince Edward Island, I sought to buy a property dotted with large shade trees. At the time, none—with a suitable residence—were to be had. So, we bought more than half an acre of lawn which boasted a modern house and three struggling trees. Every year, I plant more evergreen and leaf-shedding specimens, but only now, do three or four provide a small puddle of mid-day shade.

Determined to spend more time out-of-doors, I built a pergola. A deck twelve feet square. Four posts and beams. Then, I added a sun-safe, fabric roof. Alas, for most of the day, the shadow of the covering fell outside the deck. I installed curtains. Perfect. Until the wind blew. Their shadows vanished. Actually, they danced fiercely far beyond the perimeter of the little structure. I weighted the bottoms. On windy days, my chair or I got struck by the metal rods I’d inserted into the hems. I fastened the bottoms down. The curtains ripped. No one had warned me about maritime “breezes.”

The Pergola

After two years of shade-frustration, I decided to close in the pergola. I perused sun-protected structures on the internet and chose one that I deemed my limited carpentry skills could replicate. I had only two saws, a hand saw and a Skil saw. Using the picnic table as a support, I cut eight, two-by-six studs and began to insert two of them equally between each set of corner posts. For a short while, my next-door neighbour, who has a state of the art wood-working shop, observed my labours. Then, Mike sauntered over and asked if I’d like some help. Did I look inept? Without hesitation, I swallowed my pride and accepted his offer. We levelled and fastened the uprights, then inserted additional roof beams. When it came time for the half-walls, Mike retrieved his mitre saw. I never knew that eleven stud walls, even miniature ones, could be cut and assembled in so little time!

Now that the skeleton was complete, I was on my own. I hand-sawed and attached clapboards on the outside and fence boards on the inside. Next, I read up on “flat” roofs only to discover that flat roofs are not flat. They must incline a minimum of one-quarter inch per foot in order for water to drain away. For the first time since the start of the project, I was intimidated. My son from Alberta was scheduled to visit in a few weeks. He had considerable experience building sheds and their roofs. I awaited his arrival. Tyler demonstrated how to cut the high-front to low-back angle. Best of all, he bought me an Irwin Quick-Clamp. He called it “a second hand.” (I have been so impressed by its usefulness, that I recently purchased its twin.) A few days later, when my daughter and her family from Ontario got here, my son-in-law adeptly stained the roof beams black. Mike’s wife had suggested the colour.

One of the “experts” at the construction desk of a local building supply company knew more about metal roofs than any of the internet sites I visited. I supplied him with “exact” measurements; he asked me countless specific details; then he ordered everything I needed. After the roofing materials came, I took several days to summon the courage to tackle the project. Heights scare me. Even when they are only ten feet above the ground. Sliding across the steel panels on my bum as I fastened rivets, I noticed the young couple next door eyeing me with suspicion, or perhaps with trepidation. In the end, I never fell and, with a few adjustments, all the pieces fit.

Mike provided one last service. On the table saw in his workshop, he halved several pressure-treated two-by-fours lengthwise. With these, I built frames for the screening.

Finishing details included: re-cutting the copper pergola pipes to make shorter curtain rods; repairing and hemming the tan and white striped panels to fit the new openings; purchasing an outdoor sectional at an end-of-season sale.

The end product solved my shade dilemma. The steel roof blocks all of the sun’s skin-damaging rays; half-walls provide further protection; the screens serve two purposes—they keep the throngs of biting, stinging visitors at bay and block thirty per cent of the wind’s power, thus allowing the curtains to do their part in the quest for shade.

I still have skin cancer. However, in my garden, I now also have a black gazebo.

Pitou resting in the gazebo
One of the views from inside the gazebo. The owl chair was bought for my granddaughter.

1 thought on “The Quest for Shade”

  1. Hello again,

    Well done, you are also a builder!

    Shade is a must for your condition, more challenging when also and avid gardener, a builder and dog walker. Nevertheless, you have created a perfect shaded oasis, have the knowhow to prevent sun damage while still enjoying the outdoors… Pitou loves it too!

    I also have low tolerance to sun for many reasons, the heat, my fair skin, but mostly the hard white light so agressive to my fragile eyes, have been a shade seeker for decades.

    I believe my bound with forest and trees started when seeking natural shelter, the cool air, softness of light revealing all the beauty of nature, and when the leaves sing with the wind… perfect moments,

    Happy July, Louise xx

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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