Life in the Country- Transforming the Big Ugly

  Back when I moved to the little log cabin up the holler there was no Big Ugly.  Instead, there was a beautiful and very old Black Walnut tree and beside it, the log cabin remains of a blacksmith’s shop.

But then we found the huge, rotted hole in the very center of the Walnut tree and upon further consultation with tree doctors and such, realized it was dying.  It would have to be removed if we wanted to ensure that the cabin would not be crushed when the tree eventually fell.

Virginia 007The day we lost the Black Walnut was a very sad day indeed.  I stroked its trunk and thought of all the sites it had witnessed.  I thanked the tree silently for its years of service to the inhabitants of the holler.

The tree cutters had no such respect…

Virginia 046

Hence, the resulting Big Ugly…a plot of land so filled with clay and rock that nothing grew where the tree once stood.  In fact, last year, it was all I could do to coax two small gourds into existence on this large, barren spot.


When I had 5 days off this past Easter weekend, I immediately generated a list of to-dos.  None of them included addressing the Big Ugly.  Painting the back fence and cabin exterior held the top two spots but when the weather forecast said rain was going to be my constant companion, I took a good, long look at the abandoned Ugly.

It was time for something to be done.

Wood needed to be moved, broken glass, rusty metal and true treasures sorted and carted off to their respective places.

big ugly step 1a

  Then load after load after load of rich soil from the cleared creek beds had to be hand-shoveled and carried to their new garden home.

big ugly step 2b

Little bits and pieces began to fall into place as a picture formed slowly in my head.

The stump became a planter.

big ugly stump planter

  And then, the grand idea…The Big Ugly should have a trellis, an entrance into what will one day become my secret garden, a beautiful welcome covered in blue and white morning glories and moonflower vines.

big ugly step 3 

The only requirement- the Big Ugly’s make-over should cost virtually nothing and come from objects found on the land. 

And so began the search…stepping stones from the base of trees or the edge of creeks, lichen-covered branches hauled down off the ridgeline and across the soil road, bits of moss carefully transported from nearby trails and gently smushed in-between rock steps.

big ugly step 5a


big ugly step 5

It took 3 days and all in all, it still looks rough but the bones are there now.  A bird bath and feeder are in the works.  A white lilac looking for a home will take up residence in the back left corner and a white Iceberg rose will nestle down beside the stump. Perhaps by mid-summer the flowers will be in bloom and the Big Ugly will become the Big Beautiful.

big ugly trellis finale


Beth said...

That's lovely, Nancy. Quite a dramatic transformation. And that creekbed soil looks like rich stuff that will nurture nicely the plants in your secret garden. Though I hope it won't be too secret----I look forward to seeing the progress! :-)

Sylvia said...

It's going to be beautiful, Nancy. I am so jealous.
Sylvia Nickels
(think Wildacres, several years ago!)