Tee-pees and Grapevines

Since the weather has been slightly above freezing here the past week, we’ve been spending some time in the woods.

by Jessica Walliser

Pole beans and peas become intertwined in Jessica's garden
Photo by Jessica Walliser

Pole beans and peas twine around the wooden
tee-pees Jessica creates in her garden.

Since the weather has been slightly above freezing here the past week, we’ve been spending some time in the woods.  It’s with purpose, though—much to my husband’s chagrin. 

When we had our ‘bigger’ farm (20 acres), I used to make enormous wooden tee-pees for our pole beans and peas to ramble on.  Now that we live on our ‘smaller’ farm (2 acres), I want to do it again, but on a more manageable scale.  And that, of course, requires that we collect all the materials now, while the leaves are off the trees and we can see what’s out there.

So, last Saturday we set off on the trail that runs out the end of our small road and into the woods.  As we walked, I had one eye trained on the woods looking for materials and the other eye on the massive boot-sucking mud holes my 4-year-old son was likely to get mired in if we didn’t encourage him to step carefully. 

We (well, mostly John) managed to collect 10 thick, straight branches about 2 inches in diameter and 8 feet tall, enough to make two good-sized tee-pees.  We dragged them out of the woods and into the back yard.  That was the easy part.

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Getting the grapevines is always the hard part.  After I put up the tee-pees in spring, I like to wrap them with wild grapevines.  It gives the plants more to grip on.  My husband is NOT a gardener and tries his best to tolerate my crazy ideas.  Most importantly, he is generally willing to do whatever ‘heavy-work’ that’s physically above me.  Grapevine pulling fits into this category. 

Wild grapevines run rampant in Western Pennsylvania so finding them isn’t a problem, but in order to get them out of the trees, you need to yank the heck out of them.  If you’re lucky, they come down with little trouble; if you’re unlucky, they don’t come out no matter how hard you heave and you end up having to find a new vine to wrestle. 

Our first selected vine came down with a few good tugs.  I wrapped all 40 feet of it into a coil and John slung it over his shoulder to carry out.  The second vine took a bit more effort, Tarzan-style.  John put all his weight into it several times without more than a budge from the vine, then he hung from it with his feet off the ground and bounced.  Another budge.  With advice to my son to “Stay there and do not move,” I jumped onto the vine and we pulled together.  Eventually all 50 feet or so came down and it too was coiled and hauled home.

No injuries and all fingers still attached.  Phew.   

So now the tee-pee ‘ingredients’ are leaning against the back fence and waiting for spring.  Just like me.        

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