A front porch wasn’t necessarily on the “must have” list for our house when we were shopping in 2015. But, as we looked into housing, it moved further and further up the list. The house we bought has a full length porch on the front. It is long and it is DEEP. It’s about 12 feet from the edge of the porch to the front of the house. The depth is a critical component. Last summer was our first summer in the house, and in April I bought two red Adirondack chairs. And then I got a rug and a table. I sit out here pretty regularly, now.
The porch in question
How much shade matters. My paternal grandparents are Dutch. I am…white. I have to wear sunscreen if I’m in the sun for more than 20 minutes. If I go to a restaurant with a patio, it is very important that we sit under an umbrella (because who wants to get sunscreen all over their hands right before eating?). I refused to sit on the patio at Red Cow in the North Loop until they got umbrellas. If you look back on the history of the porch, the whole point is to keep cool during hot weather. Before A/C, being in the house on a muggy 80 degree day was hell. The full roof on our porch is really key to my enjoyment and it’s what separates a porch from the lesser, more disappointing deck. It keeps the temperature down, and eliminates the risk of sunburn (And it’s not just fair skinned people, it turns out – nobody likes to be hot). That is, until about 4:00 in the afternoon – it’s a west facing porch, and the sun gets low enough that the roof doesn’t help anymore. Last year, I just took that as a cue to go inside. But I really like being out here. I considered adding a deck on the back so I could still sit outside during this two hour window. It turns out, there are a whole line of products available to add temporary shade to your porch. I’m probably going to buy and install this later this year.
The conversation. There are a couple of types of conversations on the porch. Nonverbal – waving to neighbors across the street on their porches is standard. Because they’re further away, that’s all that’s required. Brief – A “How you doin'” is offered to strangers on the sidewalk, but only if there is eye contact, or they speak first. Side note: As I write this from my porch, I was informed that the correct response to this is not “good” but “blessed.” Extended – I know some of my neighbors better than others, so a 5-10 min conversation isn’t uncommon with someone who is walking a dog. I’ll say that the 45 minutes I spent talking to the mayoral candidate who came to the house specifically to talk to me was probably an anomaly, but it felt so perfect. Overheard – these are the best. On a nice evening, my neighbor across the street becomes progressively more philosophical and enthusiastic as he (I’m assuming) drinks. He believes in God and I can tell you why. The renters next to me hate their landlord because he doesn’t keep the yard up. I can’t say I blame them.
The view from the porch
It’s not boring. Because I have a house with a porch in the city, I don’t have a good sense of the alternative. But if I had to guess, if I was sitting in a back yard in the burbs, the view and soundtrack would not be nearly as varied. Some people’s cars work way better than others. The relationship between vehicle speed and noise is very very noticeable. Bicycles are, for the most part, really really quiet. The two-way stop at the end of my block should probably be a four-way, given the great confusion when two cars arrive at the same time. There appears to be a direct correlation between renting in a duplex and ordering delivery. Did you know there is alcohol delivery now? There is a crushed plastic bottle in the gutter in front of my house that people keep running over when they park. But I only think to pick it up AFTER it is under their car. Plants grow too quickly when you don’t want them, and not quickly enough when you do. Smokers have an excuse to go outside for a few minutes every few hours. My cat desperately wants to join me outside. But, he won’t sit still, and then he’ll just want to go in again. I feel kind of like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. The glow of a laptop screen attracts mosquitoes after dark…