Well, here we are, at the end of 2020. This is our 3rd full year, and 4th winter, of living on the farm.
We set up goals to accomplish the task of getting this place cleaned up and fixed up. Of course, goals are always flexible, since life has a way of blowing right through any plans we might make! So it’s good to take a look and see where we stand.
Of course, the first priority was getting the house itself settled. While we did get most of my parents’ belongings stored away, with some of it staying to be used, there are still things that need to get done. They are not a priority, though, so they can wait. I don’t think anyone wants to go into the attic over the old kitchen to clean that up, for example! Some day, we will have to, but it will wait.
After getting a good look (or so we thought!) of what needed to be done outside, we set yearly goals. The first two years were to be focused on cleaning up the inner yard, then moving on to the outer yard in the third year, before finally moving beyond the outer yard, where we could start looking at clearing out the vehicle graveyard and large junk piles.
In the first year, focus was on clearing out the maple grove and the south and west yards, while year two was supposed to focus on clearing out the spruce grove and east yard. The old garden area in the north was basically in limbo until we decided on what we wanted to do for gardening. The big accomplishment there was getting a new push mower that allowed us to actually mow the overgrown old garden that had been badly plowed some time before we moved out here.
Year one went to plan, but year two had other plans for us, as my husband ended up in the hospital for 3 weeks, followed by trips to the city for medical care, and other such things. The weather also did not cooperate, with drought conditions and heat making heavy physical labour outdoors potentially dangerous. So that whole area got pushed back another year, except for one thing. I managed to clear out the old wood pile, uncovering the only good and soft soil in the entire inner yard! We also set aside an area where my mother’s garden used to be for future gardening, covering it with mulch, then using the giant black tarps reclaimed from the old wood pile to cover most to the area over the winter.
Between those two accomplishments, we ended up planting an actual garden this past summer. This was not something we expected to be able to do for some time, but really, if we waited until conditions were just right, nothing would ever get done, so we went for it. In that respect, this past year had us ahead of the game a bit.
Another plan we had for this past year got pretty much zero progress. We wanted to build a cordwood shed to use as an outdoor bathroom. Having what we thought was the septic tank backing up into the basement, and having to use a honey pot until that got cleared up, showed us that we don’t just need a second bathroom. We need a bathroom that does not rely on our septic system. The old outhouse we’ve got here has a growing hole to the pit developing under the door, and we don’t consider it safe to use. We want to move away from having a pit and use a composting toilet, instead. Sure, it means having to empty the contents regularly, but in the long term, it means the shed could someday be used as something else, just by removing the toilet box.
At the very least, I hoped to get an area dug out so we could create a level “foundation” to build on top of, that would allow for drainage while also holding the weight of cordwood and mortar walls.
This past year, we had a wet spring followed by some pretty extreme heat (well… for our area), and the only thing we managed to accomplish to that goal was clear away the last of the little trees that had sprung up by the old wood pile. I think not getting any progress on that is my one real disappointment for the year’s plans gone awry.
At the same time, even with the setbacks of the previous years, there were things that needed to get done in the outer yard. Thanks to my brother, gaping holes in the roof of one the sheds were patched with pieces of metal roofing left over from when the barn and garage were done, years ago. Windows were replaced or fixed. Some trees cleared away from other roofs. These were things that were part of the original plans, so in that respect, they were being done on schedule. The other things that need to be done in the outer yard will be slowly accomplished over the space of years, but some things were just more urgent than others.
The summer heat made working in the spruce grove severely limited. Plus, while we were glad to have an actual garden this past year, tending them did take time away from the goal of clearing out that grove. It is a fire hazard, which increases with every tree that comes down in a storm, or any branches that fall. Plus, we want to take down the dead trees and plant more spruces in the spruce grove!
So that area has been pushed back for yet another year.
Which brings me to our updated plans and goals.
For 2021, we’ll be focusing even more on gardening, having picked up a ridiculous number of seeds, with more things to arrive in the spring, when they can be planted right away. This is going to rather force us to get the spruce grove cleared up faster! Areas of the spruce grove are being taken over by poplars, and these will be perfect to use to build trellises and arbors for the garden. We even plan to build a gate/arbor combination to set up next to the main gate, so people can come in without climbing the locked gate. The taller poplars would probably be useful in building temporary, deer proof fencing to protect our garden, too.
There’s at least one large dead spruce I want to take down. Not starting on the cordwood shed may actually be a plus, since I would be cutting it to (hopefully!) fall in that direction, where there are no other trees for it to fall on top of. With the old chainsaw we have breaking at one of the switches needed to start it, the very first time I tried to use it, we will need to invest in a new one to get the spruce grove cleaned up. There’s only so much that’s reasonable to do with a buck saw! Plus, we have a mulberry tree coming in the spring. It’s a zone 4 tree, so we want to ensure it is growing in a protected area that also gives full sun, and that’s going to be in the spruce grove.
With having varieties of corn and sunflowers that need to be kept away from each other to avoid cross pollination, we’ll be working in areas of the old garden that are well away from the house. All of that will be temporary as, in the long term, we are looking to plant nut trees in there, and move most of the gardening into the outer yard, south of the house. So any gardening we do around there in the upcoming year will mean breaking up the hard, rocky soil and amending it, which will make it better for any future nut trees we plant out there.
One of the goals we had for this past year was to hire the tree company to come out with their massive chipper, and get rid of the piles of wood we’ve got all over. We couldn’t do it this year, but it still needs to be done. It may be worthwhile for us to just buy a chipper instead, though the cost of one that can handle what we’d be putting it through would be considerably more than the cost of hiring this company to come out for 6 hours. From the estimate I got at the time, he figured 6 hours would be enough time for them to do all the piles, too. Hiring someone would be more efficient to get these big piles done. We can invest in a chipper of our own, later on. We will always have branches to clean up and get rid of, so it would be worth it.
So the past year has been an odd mix of goals delayed, while others were accomplished faster than expected. One thing that has been delayed for way too long is getting the junk pile hauled to the dump. This is something we will be hiring people to do, so it basically comes down to whether or not it’s in the budget at any given time. So far, it hasn’t been! It would be fantastic to get rid of that unsightly mess, though.
Aside from time and weather dependent things that will need to get done, like all things garden related, our goals and plans for 2021 have become a lot more loosey-goosey. Timelines have become much more vague, and we’re still at a loss on how to accomplish some vital goals, like replacing the roof.
Still, we’ve managed to accomplish enough in the past year, that we can spend more time building things up, rather than taking things down, in the next year.
Which is as good for the psyche as for anything else!