Garden bed and kibble house progress

Today’s high was supposed to be 19C/66F. I don’t know if we reached it, but with the blustery winds, it never felt that warm. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the weather, and my app on my desktop includes historical data for each day, including 30 year record highs and lows for various data. I noticed that today had a record high for snow of 14cm/5.5in in 2019. In fact, we set record highs for snow on the 10th, 11th and 12th, all in 2019. We were just coming to the end of our second year here, so I went looking at my blog posts for those dates.

Ah, yes. I remember that blizzard!

The amazing thing is that, just days later, all that snow was gone, and while we were still cleaning up storm damage, everything was back to green and sunny!

Depending on which app I look at, however, we might be getting a mix of snow and rain starting tomorrow night, and by Friday afternoon, we’re expected to get between 3-6cm (roughly 1-2 inches) of snow.

That meant my focus was preparing to build up walls around the L shaped bed in the old kitchen garden.

I went through the maple pieces I’d cut yesterday and started cutting them to size, cutting points on them, and debarking some of them.

I had lots of furry help. So much help, one of the kitties got plumb tuckered out!

From the longest, straightest pieces of maple, I cut three into 4 foot lengths. Then I went through some of the strongest pieces to cut four 3 foot lengths, then four 2 1/2 foot lengths. After that, I just cut as many 2 1/2 foot lengths from the thinner straight pieces as I could get out of them.

I used a hatchet to cut the points on all of them. That was probably the most unpleasant part of the job. Not so much for the thinner pieces, but for all the thicker ones. I’m ambidextrous for most things, left handed when it comes to fine motor control, but for some things, I am completely right handed.

Using a hatchet is one of those things, and my right hand has been in terrible shape lately. I had difficulty gripping the hatchet, and had to stop frequently to give my hand a break.

The draw knife was awesome for debarking the wood. It’s still quite green and came off easily. I don’t have a way to secure the pieces I’m working on well, so there were quite a few times when I was pushing instead of drawing the blade – and it works just as well that was, too. For some of the thinner pieces, though, it was easier to just use a knife to debark them.

Also, no, that is not rust on the blade of the draw knife. It’s stained with tree sap.

The stack of the thinnest pieces did not get debarked. It would have taken forever and, at their sizes, it would have been awkward. The pieces that will be taking the most stress, however, have been debarked.

That all took a few hours.

Then it was time to get to the garden bed. I pulled the lettuce I’d left to go to seed (it looks like we’ll get seed from just one of them) and got ready to prep the bed. Without walls, soil was falling into the path and the inside of the L shape, and I don’t like wasting good soil!

I used a hoe to draw some of that soil back into the bed, and level off the edge, where the uprights will be going.

The three longest pieces will form a triangle at the inside of the bend. When we start weaving branches through the posts, these will be taking the most stress. Working out from there, one 3 ft piece will go along the short end, and three down the long end. If I have enough materials to do it, I plan to build up the wall higher at these posts, as much to wall around the lilac as to create a wall for the bed.

The four 2 1/2 ft pieces are for the corners at the ends of the bed.

To install the posts, I used the pencil point bar and hammered it into the ground.

Unfortunately, that old hammer doesn’t have the right handle on it, and the head fell off again. I had to switch to a sledge hammer.

I really didn’t want to switch to the sledge hammer.

Ah, well. It worked better. I’m just going to be in a world of hurt, tonight!

I started by placing three posts in, then tied twine between them as guides for the rest of the posts. Then I laid out the spacing for the remaining two 4 ft posts, and the four 3 ft posts.

At this point my daughter, who had been working on putting salvaged shingles on the kibble house, ran out of roofing tar. I’d only picked up a small can for patch jobs, never expecting to need more.

So I left my daughter to continue pounding in the posts while I went into town to pick up more tar, and a few other things while I was there. When I came back, I found my daughter lying on a tarp on the ground surrounded by kittens. She is having much more success at socializing than I am!

She had even pounded the other two corner posts at the ends of the L shape.

The weather was starting to get worse, so I quickly filled in the gaps with the smaller 2 1/2 ft posts.

The long end of the L shape will be only 2 feet wide, so the end posts needed just one more added in between them, plus three more along the north side. The short end of the L shape needed only 2 more to fill the gap. Since this end can be accessed from three sides, we’re okay with it being wider than 2 feet, so the end posts there got two more in between. The rest of the posts will be for the outside of the L shape.

From the looks of it, I’m going to need to find more pieces to be able to finish the outside of the bed, but I’m not concerned about that right now. It’s the inside of the L shape that I need to get done first.

By this time, however, dark clouds were rolling in and it was starting to look like rain, so I left the job at this point and focused on cleaning up and putting away anything that might blow away. My daughter, meanwhile, finished the roof of the kibble house.

The green shingles are almost 50 years old and are in pretty rough shape. The brown ones are better, but they’re almost 30 years old.

The water bowl house roof is thinner plywood, so we’ll be using pieces of metal roofing that we’ve been scavenging for various things since we’ve moved here. If we used shingles, the nails we have would go right through by nearly half an inch, and that would be a problem! I dragged a piece of metal roofing out from the barn that we can cut in half and lay side by side to cover the roof of the water bowl house, but I also spotted a stack of corner pieces. I brought one over, and helped my daughter put it on the edge of the shingles on the kibble house. I found a bin of metal roofing screws in the warehouse, so I grabbed a bunch for when the water bowl house is done, and my daughter used a few of those to install the metal cap on the edge of the roof, using the screw holes that were already in the metal – after making sure to put some tar under each hole, first.

Almost everything about the kibble and water bowl houses has been done using scavenged bits and pieces we’ve found around the property, and a lot of it is pretty old and starting to rot. We don’t expect these to last long, but using paint and even decades old shingles will help them last longer. At some point, it’ll be nice to be able to build versions using new materials, all well measured and cut and leveled, etc. But this will do for now.

Once this was done, I set up a longer extension cord I found that was in good shape, and was able to plug in the cat’s house. We lifted the roof and put in the high density rubber mats I’d dragged out of the barn, which will help insulate the floor. There’s a thick scrap yarn crocheted blanket that is laid out on top of the mats, too. We will not be using straw this year. As much care as we have taken with the terrarium heater bulb, I would much rather not have straw in there! The heat bulb is working fine, with the heat shield still in place, and the timer is set to light sensor, so it will turn on when it gets dark, then off again when it gets light. The smoke detector was tested, too, and it’s working fine.

Once the water bowl house is done and set up where it will go, we’ll be able to plug in the heated water bowl through the cat’s house entry, too.

Tonight, the cats will have a warm and cozy place to stay if they start feeling too chilly. I especially hope the tiniest kittens will start using it!

As for me, I’ve pain killered up and hope I’ll be able to continue in the old kitchen garden tomorrow. For the weaving, I plan to cut the willow branches and use them right away, while they are still very green and flexible.

I really hope this works out. Otherwise, that’s a lot of work for nothing! Well. Not for nothing. Now that those posts are in, even if wattle weaving doesn’t work, I could still use them to hold whatever we find to use instead. It’s all fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants work, anyhow!

Which is half the fun. 😊

The Re-Farmer

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