Rural Living

Porch Days: The Essence of the Summertime Rural Lifestyle

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer


 Margo Oxendine

My porch becomes a ninth room for about eight months, from mid-April to mid-November. I eat my lunch and dinner out there, while reading newspapers and magazines.

Aren’t porches wonderful? Especially if they’re screened, in my opinion. Those flimsy screens let you see everything, yet keep the bugs and critters outside where they belong. Most of them, anyway.

It hasn’t happened this year — so far — but every so often a certain wily wren manages to somehow make it inside the screen. As I’m sitting here at my desk, I suddenly see him, darting about in a madcap fashion. Then, I must go onto the porch, prop open the screen door, and hope for the best. It has worked so far.

Almost daily, a determined wasp, hornet or stinkbug manages to get inside the screen. I can barely bring myself to recall the seeming thousands of ladybugs who show up inside the porch in spring and fall. I let them accumulate — something like a Woodstock or Coachella of ladybugs — and then go out, madly spray everything, and watch them fall like unarmed soldiers. Finally I go outside and vacuum them up. Some are wounded; they get sucked up, too.

My porch becomes a ninth room for about eight months, from mid-April to  mid-November. I eat my lunch and dinner out there, while reading newspapers and magazines. After a meal, I go out and read a book on the porch, until it becomes too dark to see. If I bring a lamp out there, I can stay there until bedtime. Many times this summer, I have read a book a day, outside on the porch. It’s much cooler out there. I’d like to sleep with the porch door to the inside open, but there are those danged mice. And, what if that pesky little wren — I think it’s always the same one — somehow manages to get inside the house? A bird flying madly about the house is a disconcerting thing, and requires a complicated and hopeful arrangement to get it back outside again. Not to mention the invariable clean-up afterward.

It’s fascinating what you can observe while sitting on the porch for eight hours a day (don’t forget; I’m supposedly “retired”). This summer, I’ve watched Mama Robin raise one batch of four babies. The second batch of eggs is in there right now (in late June). There were four again, but … one morning I checked on the eggs at 8 a.m. and there they were. Two hours later, there were just two blue eggs. Where did they go? I was dejected for days.

I seem to have a bumper crop of baby bunnies this summer. They’re impossible to count, but they only seem to be increasing. They are fun to watch. Just yesterday, a big, golden doe and her fawn daintily tiptoed their way across the lawn. They were headed for the woods that separate my place from a busy highway. I called out a warning to them; I can only hope it was heeded.

Last week, I saw a thrilling sight: two of my favorite birds, pileated woodpeckers. One was pounding away at a telephone pole. The other was hammering on a wooden railroad tie that marks off Mom’s old “church garden,” where glorious gladioli once flourished. (I am not a successful flower-grower.) What drew my attention from my book to the woodpeckers was an odd sound, like a kitten mewing. It was being emitted by the smaller woodpecker near the ground. Weird. And wonderful.

My sister recently observed a rare sight early one morning: Two mourning doves mating on a fence outside her porch! What are the odds of that? I mean, without going into details, haven’t you sometimes wondered? Now, she knows. Wish I’d seen it.

My dear late mother and I used to spend a lot of time together on the porch, rocking in the cushy chairs and watching nature. Early every spring, we’d have “Porch Day,” when we’d wash down the 20 sills, vacuum the floor, shake the rugs, wash the floor, wipe down the table and every other surface. Finally, we’d move out all the houseplants. Then, we’d take a well-deserved rest and enjoy lunch out there.

I remember well that Porch Day we did all our many chores, wiping sweat from our brows and stopping to rest. We finally brought out most of the plants, except for one. As Mom carried it out, she dropped it. The pot broke; potting soil and plant parts scattered everywhere. We had to start all over again.

We were able to laugh about it. Much later.

Spice up your summer reading with Margo’s “A Party of One,” a compilation of columns from the past. Call 540-468-2147 Mon-Thurs, 9-5, or email:




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