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There is a quiet spot on the deck, above the herb and tea garden and tucked away behind the front porch. Until now, this space was very neglected and never, ever used or visited. As B and I had been spending the summer staining, repairing and restoring the entire front deck, we finally came upon this little area and are very pleased with how the project turned out!

The ‘before’ photographs below were taken in June. The defining feature of this part of the deck is this sweet little bench built around a tree, but the tree was so over grown that it made the bench inaccessible and it also made the space feel very crowded. This is a shady spot and the tree continually drops leaves and berries, covering the deck floor which was stained almost black in color.

This is the master bedroom window. The window frame was stained the same color as the cabin and didn’t really stand out. The two bottom logs of the cabin were also black with mold (I had scrubbed off what I could before taking this picture).

There was a curious opening in the deck rails. I was told by the previous owner that they had planned on putting a hot tub out in the woods there.  There is also this ‘look-out’ area at the far end where the deck rails had never been finished and many of the slats were missing.

Just beyond the look-out are some stairs leading down the to basement walkout door. It didn’t make sense to close this off so we decided to make some changes here in order to make this space inviting and connected to the rest of the cabin and woods.

While B got to work fixing the railing, I began staining the front deck rails just above the herb and tea garden (and planter) which lead to this part of the deck.

B closed up the opening with new railing and added the missing slats while I followed him with my can of stain…

Next, B removed the railing at the ‘look out’ and built three wooden stairs that connect with the stone stairs leading down to the back door.

Note: We will be moving the eavestrough so that it runs below the stairs but this will also involve digging a small trench so that we can extend the pipe about six feet to where the ground slopes away from the cabin.

I pruned the overgrown tree- which, by the way, turned out to be a chokecherry tree (and I have since made two batches of chokecherry jelly– recipes will be posted soon!). I stained the bench with the same black brown stain as the rails and now it really stands out as a focal point now.

I also scrubbed (and scrubbed and scrubbed) the entire deck floor by hand with the stiffest scouring brushes and pads I could find. The deck looked quite black, but when it was wet it was actually green… Moss? Algae? I scrubbed it until I could see the original wood again and then sealed it with a clear sealant. The deck floor is so much easier to sweep and keep clean, and it is quite satisfying to see the water bead up on the deck floor now whenever it rains instead of being soaked up by the wood.

I also stained the window frame and now the window looks sharp and crisp against the cedar cabin.

This is a very hidden, private and quiet part of the deck, surrounded by trees and in deep shade. I decided to make this a ‘Zen deck’- a place for peaceful retreat, for quiet work, or simply a place to reflect and contemplate. I found the perfect cast iron bistro set (at Canadian Tire) that has a bamboo pattern. I found the Buddha at Polly Maggo’s on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. It is actually a water fountain and I will set it up once I find the right bowl for him to sit on. The blue ceramic garden stool that the Buddha is sitting on was purchased at Pier1 Imports.

Here is a what the Zen deck looks like now. I have added pots of shade-loving plants and just last week found a square red umbrella at Jysk. I love sitting out here, especially when it’s raining and I can sit under the umbrella and enjoy the peace of the woods.

Here is a view from the front of the cabin. As you can see, it is very dark and private.

And so another neglected, uninviting space has been turned into a new favorite place to spend quality time. I eat my breakfasts in the deep shade of this deck when it is too hot to eat on the patio, I blog and write here, and I also come here to simply sip tea and sit in solitude.

Next year, I plan on adding many more pots of ferns and other shade-loving plants in various sizes. I want to work on a painting on hang on the bare wall to the left of the window. I would like to add some hanging baskets to the tall rails and landscape the area along the stairs leading down to the back door. For now, I will enjoy watching the trees change to a golden yellow from the comfort of the Zen deck.

Path of herbs,

carpet of red moss,

Window in the mountains,

brimming with greenery…

I envy your wine

in the midst of the flowers:

Those butterflies that flutter

in your dream.

~Qian Qi