Almost everyone who grew up in New England has a favorite front porch. In the days before air conditioning, a porch was almost a necessity if you could afford one. After a long hot day, there’s nothing like the satisfying feeling of settling into that comfortable old rocker with a glass of lemonade or iced coffee, and sitting there watching the world go by. If you grew up in Chester there was the big porch at the Fullerton Inn ... big enough for more than just a bit of leisurely rocking. Nowadays meals are enjoyed there in that relaxing manner made popular by our forbears. Further west on Main Street and you’d see Charlie Richardson out on his porch, and so on and so on, all around town. My maternal grandmother’s home on a leafy street in Andover, N.H., had one of those quintessential New England porches, complete with a porch swing. Large enough to accommodate four or five small kids, we’d spend hours out there in summer just enjoying the motion and the silliness that would always ensue.
My fraternal grandparents porch on Pleasant Street in Ludlow was a different story. Years before I came along it had been glassed in and used for a bedroom. I slept out there a few times myself, but on a warm summer evening it was no place to be. Because I wanted a hot tub on my small porch, I had it glassed in many years ago by a talented neighbor. Most of the work he did was during a time that I had gone to California, and when I
When we expanded my home to accommodate my fiancee, we suddenly learned that a screened in porch was no longer practical. It was made impractical by three of the four cats that came with the deal. Somewhere along in their previous lives in Brattleboro, they had learned to shred screens in the manner that circus clowns break through hoops with a paper center. Always the creative one, I thought maybe I could replace the nylon screening with metal, and electrify the screens, thus quickly training the cats that screens were no fun to shred any longer. The impracticality and gross inhumanity of that solution was evident even to me ... so it never had a prayer. When it came to enjoying a screened in porch, I had been beaten by four furry creatures. Lovable furry creatures I might add, so in went the windows and they stayed there.
For years the hot porch had to sit there, no ventilation, no movement of air. The rest of the house was not possible to cool naturally, so one air conditioner actually does the job quite admirably. My fiancee found a solution to the screen issue when they came out with this super thick indestructible screening that was pet resistant. The one screen that remained in the house was replaced with the new material as a test case. It has held up for years. Only one cat is now capable of shredding a screen that high on the house, and we let him have at it with no negative effects. It has become his way of letting us know that he wants to come in the house. Yup, he literally launches himself four feet into the air at an angle that slams him claws first onto the pet proof screen. He only has to do it once because the sound is pretty loud. I’ve learned to turn on recessed lights under the eaves to check if his mouth isn’t full of a living chipmunk, then I let him in. It’s a system that works pretty well.
A couple of years ago I put in a pet door. Now that the cats can gain access without ripping their way in I thought I’d give screens another try. I just finished putting a couple in a few minutes ago. Well, at least a couple that had not been previously trashed. The airflow is fabulous. The breezes run up our hill from the south and are distributed perfectly on the porch because of its longitudinal north-south orientation. Time will tell if this screening rebirth will work out. With several years of easy access through the pet door, I’m willing to bet that the cats will completely ignore the fact that there are screens in the porch windows. If they do happen to attempt a pointless break-out, we will replace the screening with the new, pet proof stuff. Now that we have our porch back, it’s just too nice to let a couple of rambunctious cats run our lives. I’m looking for a nice rocker and thinking about cool drinks with tinkling ice cubes and the weekend paper in my lap ... as long as some cat doesn’t jump up there first.
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for 20 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM every weekday morning at 8 a.m.