Water bowl house, in progress

My younger daughter starting working on a shelter for the water bowls, and we got some more progress on it last night. This is being built with whatever scraps we can find in the barn.

Construction is almost complete. A couple of floor boards are not nailed down yet. It got too dark to see. The scrap boards used for the floor and walls are pretty old, and there was a fair amount of rot on the ends. For the walls, I laid the boards so that the strongest wood could be nailed in place, then the rotted ends were sawed off. The same boards were used for the floor. Since this is to hold water bowls, there are spaces left in between, so that if any water spills, it’ll run through the gaps and not accumulate inside.

I might be able to cover those triangle shaped gaps at the sides. I was originally going to just leave them, but they are pretty big. Big enough that I think too much snow might blow in during the winter.

Once the construction is complete, it’ll get a scrub down and a paint job.

It’s big enough to hold the four water bowls we have, though it won’t fit as many cats at the same time as the kibble house can. That won’t be a problem, as they don’t crowd around the water bowls the way they do for the kibble.

Once painted, this should actually last a few years, in spite of how bad some of the boards are. The frame is made with sturdier wood, so it’s actually pretty strong.

It will be good to not have to dig the water bowls out of the snow this winter!

The Re-Farmer

I got tired, so I built a bench

This afternoon I worked on pruning away some low hanging branches on the Chinese elm by the chain link fence. We’ve pruned these a few times over the past few years, but they fill in again so quickly! It had gotten to the point that some branches were overhanging our “parking lot” – which meant they were also starting to shade the tomatoes we have planted against the chain link fence too much.

Thankfully, we have a really good, really long, extended pruning saw! Once I got the biggest branch down, it uncovered a bunch of dead branches that I took down as well. The branches were big enough that I had to break them down before I could haul them to the branch pile for chipping. I also used the loppers to cut away a whole lot of new little branches that were low enough to snag on my hat every time I walked by!

While it wasn’t an exceptionally hot day today, it was still hot enough to make the job less than pleasant. What I found myself really wanting to do was be able to just sit down in the shade every now and then. There’s nowhere to sit in that side of the yard. So, when I was done cleaning up the branches, I decided to go into the barn and see what I could find to build something.

This is what I came out with. Three pieces of scrap wood.

They’ve been in the barn for a long time, so I hosed them down and gave them a scrubbing to get the worst of the dust and dirt off.

I had only a general idea in mind of how I wanted to build this. There’s one 10 inch wide board for the seat, and a 2×4 for the legs – and it’s actually a true 2×4; I was wondering why these boards seemed bigger than the usual 2x4s you get from the lumber yard. Those are cut to 2×4, then shrink while curing, so they’re actually 1 1/2 x 3 1/2. The third board, with the white paint on it, is that kind of 2×4, and you can see the difference in size in the picture. I added that board for structural support.

For the legs, after cutting off the rotten end of the board, I was able to cut four pieces at 20 inches long. That left a slightly shorter piece that I used for a centre support. I then cut six 9 inch pieces for cross pieces and structural support. The legs for the ends were joined with the cross pieces at what will be the top of the legs. For the slightly shorter centre leg, I lined it up with the others and added the cross piece so that they all matched in height.

Normally, I would have used screws for this, but I didn’t want to fight with our drill, so I dug up a bucket of nails we found while cleaning out the house that were long enough.

Then I flipped them around and added more cross pieces to the pairs of legs, to make sure they wouldn’t wiggle out of place. For the support leg in the middle, I added another cross piece to support the seat. The board had a section of tree bark on it and was rounded, so I could only manage two nails on one side. Not as strong as I would have liked, but it should hold.

Then it was time to add the seat. Which was a pain in the butt. I don’t have any clamps. The bench pieces were laid out on its side, and I had to support the leg pieces with my legs while I nailed the seat in place. Since the legs are an inch narrower than the seat itself, I also had to hold the leg pieces up half an inch at the same time. It actually worked far better than I expected! 😄

Once I had a single nail in each leg, I could lift the bench up off its side, and do the rest of the nailing.

I had company.

The big black and white kitten came back to see what I was doing!

It is so very cute!

There we have it! The bench is done!

It’s actually a bit of a mess. I was using a hand saw or the mini-chainsaw to make my cuts, and they are far from straight or tidy. I’m sure the lengths aren’t exact, either. But then, it’s also going to be sitting on uneven ground, so it really doesn’t make much of a difference. Once the legs are settled into the softer ground, it’ll work itself out. In fact, it seemed just fine when I tested it out and sat in the shade for a while.

The seat hadn’t completely dried out from being washed, though! 😂

I should probably add some angled pieces under the seat to prevent any wobble, but between the cross pieces under the seat and the centre support, it’s pretty sturdy. With the legs at 20 inches, plus the thickness of the seat, the bench is slightly higher than typical, which makes it much better on my wrecked knees. Setting it up against the log border of this bed means that I can use the log as a foot rest, too.

All we need to do now is pick up some more paint. We’ve got the tree stump bench near the garden that needs to be painted, too.

So far, we’ve got the picnic table in a bright, almost peacock blue, and the kibble house is a bright yellow. The inside of the outhouse is a pale mint.

What colour do you think I should paint the benches? Should we go with something bright again? Or more subtle? I find myself thinking a deep red would be nice. Or maybe a green similar to the lilac bushes beside it?

Any suggestions?

The Re-Farmer

High raised bed – it’s done!

Oh, my goodness, what a difference having that new chainsaw made!

But before I could break it in, I needed to drag down the stuck tree, so I could use the wood in the high raised bed. Thanks to my husband very securely attaching the hooks I got to the rope I got – rope rated to 450 pounds – it was a simple matter to use the van to pull it out.

My goodness, where those top branches ever entangled! When I started pulling it, it didn’t fall, but stayed stuck until I got far enough that the tree was no longer dragging on the ground, but lifting up. At which point, it rolled up and got dragged over the compost ring, then finally it broke free from the branches and dropped.

Right on the cherry trees we are intending to cut away, so there’s no loss there!

After replacing a large divot of sod that got dragged out, I then used the baby chain saw to start cutting away the branches, and cutting away the top of the tree.

Then it got rolled onto the compost ring, so the rest of the branches could be trimmed off.

Finally, it was time to break out the new chainsaw!

Of course, I took the time to read the manual, first, then added chainsaw oil to the reservoir.

Then I measured out and cut a pair of nine foot lengths from the tree trunk.

The bucksaw does a great job, but the chainsaw did in mere seconds what would have taken me probably 5, maybe even 10, minutes, per cut, by hand!

Then, while I dragged the logs over to the high raised bed, I helped a daughter move the rest of the tree trunk aside, so they could set up the wood chipper. They cleaned up all the dead branches from the tree, as well as the little cherry trees we’d cut away to access the last tree we’d cut down.

They spent more time prepping the branches to fit the chipper and shredder, than actually doing the chipping and shredding! Unfortunately, the little spruce branches were so twisted, they ended up clogging the shredder chute to the point that my daughter had to take it off to unclog it. Once that was cleared up, they did a few celebratory shreds before heading inside to start on supper.

Meanwhile…

I started working on the high raised bed by first taking it apart! I cut away the notches in the base logs so that the cross pieces would sit lower, and no longer have that gap that was there before. I also was able to clean up the cuts and make adjustments, as needed.

The new nine foot lengths were thicker than I thought, so after I put the bottom cross pieces back, I used the new logs for the next level.

I ended up not needing to cut notches in them at all. Instead, I was able to just adjust and cut the notches in the next level of cross pieces to fit.

It was SO much faster and easier to cut the notches with the chain saw! Pretty much every notch we’d cut before needed modification.

I used smaller, thinner, logs at the top, which turned out to be a pain. These are from higher in the tree, which meant they were not as straight, and had more little branch stubs all over. I ended up having to trim logs along their lengths to get rid of lumpy bits, so things would sit against each other better.

Then I went and cut two more four foot lengths to do the last cross pieces.

There we have it! The high raised bed is built!

Standing next to a corner, it’s just barely reaches my hip. For mobility and accessibility purposes, we could probably have gone higher than this, but I think this will be fine.

Now, we just need to fill it! We’ve got old logs for the bottom, with corn stalks, leaves, grass clippings and garden waste to layer in. I’ll add thin layers of soil in between each layer of organic matter before topping it off with soil for about the depth of the top logs.

That will be a job for tomorrow!

I may have had to juggle the budget a bit to get that chainsaw, but it was worth every penny. There is no way I could have finished this today, without it. In fact, I have my doubts I would have been able to finish it before winter, at the rate things were going!

About the only other thing we might end up doing with this is maybe get some short pieces of rebar, drill holes through the top couple of logs and set the rebar in them to really make sure the logs stay in place.

It’s really a horrible, messy, slapdash job, but it will still probably last us many years.

Now we just need to cut down more dead trees, so we’ll have the material to build more!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: high raised bed build, day 2

I did a fair bit of running around this morning, and was even able to get a quick visit in with my mother. We are hopefully now well stocked with cat kibble for the rest of the month. It’s also coming up on Thanksgiving here in Canada, which means cheap turkey season, so I got one for this weekend, and another for the freezer. 🙂

Once back at home, I grabbed a quick lunch and the girls and I headed outside. While they worked on raking leaves for me – and running to and from the house for any tools I needed – I worked on the high raised bed.

The bottom got prepared a bit, first. I straightened out the edges and shoveled out some more soil, then used a thatching rake on the bottom. I eye-balled four feet across and raked up the edges where the logs would go. Then I got two nine foot lengths in. The first one was placed right where I wanted it to go (that’s the one on the right), then placed the two sticks against it. From the sticks, I measured four feet and placed two more sticks, then rolled the second log up against the second pair of sticks.

Once those were in place, I rolled an end piece against them and used their width to judge where to begin cutting. This end piece was the bottom of the trunk, so it had one very uneven end. It was measured and cut at more than four feet to compensate for that. That made it long enough to cut a notch out to fit the logs, rather than cutting right to the edge.

I used the baby chainsaw to cut the outer edges of the notch, then made a cut lengthwise. I then spent the next while using a hammer and chisel, sometimes a hatchet, to cut out excess wood, which you can see inside the bed. After most of the wood was chiselled out, I use the baby chainsaw to cut into the remaining excess wood, as you can see above.

Then I kept running it over the area to level it more. I wasn’t after perfection, here, and don’t have the tools to do a better job, so this was as good as it was going to get!

It didn’t take long for me to drain the battery on the baby chainsaw and have to switch to the second one

When I started working on the other end, I made plenty of cuts to make chiseling the excess out, easier!

I got it to this point with the chisel before going at it with the baby chainsaw to level it off some more.

Then I got a daughter to help me place it on the logs, so I could use it to mark were to cut wood out of the ends.

By the time I finished making cuts to depth, I drained the second battery. That’s okay. It was enough to get started, and since I was removing wood to the edge, it would be easier to take off the excess with a chisel than with the notches.

Right?

Ha! Of course not.

Both logs had knots in them. One of them had two.

Those were a real pain in the butt to work through with nothing but a chisel or a hatchet to cut through them!

On the plus side, working on this took enough time that the first battery was almost fully charged again, so I could use the baby chainsaw to finish off the area.

That done, the end piece could be set in place.

As you can see, there is quite a bit of a gap under the end piece. This is not a concern, as the bottom of the bed will be filled with logs. It will be an easy matter to find a piece that can be fit under that cross piece.

The good thing is, all those bits of wood I’m cutting out will not go to waste, as they will be buried with the old logs. We’ll have things decomposing at different rates, all of which will release their nutrients slowly over time while the wood will act like a sponge, reducing the need for watering.

By this time, we started to get a bit of rain, so I stopped for the day. The girls finished raking and headed in to make supper while I prepped to continue later.

I chose a second cross piece that was close in size to the one at the opposite end. As before, I will use the other logs to see where to make the cut outs. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue on this tomorrow. It depends on whether or not my mother will need me to drive her around or not.

This would go a lot faster if I had a full sized chain saw. 😀 Ah, well. We use the tools we have!

Meanwhile, I now have a nice pile of leaves to use when it’s time to start layering on top of the logs that will go on the bottom of the new raised bed! It’s been pretty windy, but hopefully they won’t blow away. 😉

I’m glad we have found a way to make use of all those dead spruces we need to take down!

The Re-Farmer

Second low raised bed: done!

You can read about the first raised bed I did, here and here. Things were done a bit different this time, so here is another step-by-step post with lots of photos! 🙂 I actually started this bed over a week ago. This is how it looked then.

This bed has been almost completely untouched since the garlic was harvested, letting the weeds get fairly large. This made them easier to pull.

Along with pulling the weeds, with as much of the roots as I could, I lengthened the bed to match the size of the box. Right away, I could tell this one was going to need a “foundation” under the box, too. I was definitely hitting rocks, and a whole lot of roots, while trying to loosen more soil and remove grass and weeds.

Once the weeding and loosening of soil was done, it was left to sit so that any weeds I missed would have a chance to start growing again.

When I started working on it today, the first thing I did was go over the area again, pulling out any new growth by the roots. Then it was time to start shoveling!

Like the previous bed, this one had been originally amended by burying the contents of our compose pile and straw. So I only wanted to remove up to the straw, basically.

In the process, I was finding a LOT more roots! It looks like the cherry trees are encroaching again.

Once I was satisfied with how much of the topsoil I had removed, I raked around the edges to try and level the soil where the box would be resting, as much as possible, while heaping it all in the middle.

Then the box was laid down and, once I had it where I wanted it, I used a sledge hammer to hammer in the supports on either side, at the middle, to prevent the long sides from bowing out when filled with soil. I also hammered down the corners and such, to leave marks in the soil that I could use as guide lines.

The ground wasn’t anywhere near as level as I probably should have made it, but that’s okay. Things will settle and adjust over time, and these boxes can be easily replaced in the future, if need be.

The next step was to raid the pile of old, salvaged boards that the groundhogs have made their den under, and build up a foundation to support the box. Once that was in place, a daughter came out to help me carefully place the box on top of the foundation, and in between the support posts.

Then it was just a matter of shifting the foundation boards a bit, to make sure the box was fully supported. Again, not quite level, but that’s okay.

The soil heaped in the middle was then raked out to the sides, covering the foundation boards and creating more of a recess in the centre.

Then it was time to add the first layer of fill, and raid the branch pile. This time, I added more and larger branches than with the first bed I did.

This, unfortunately, left a lot of gaps and air pockets. They will fill in as the wood decomposes and everything settles and sinks, but that will take time. To help fill in spaces and speed up the decomposition process, I started adding back some of the soil. After returning about a quarter of the soil, I hosed it down thoroughly, so wash it further down into the gaps, then added about another quarter of the soil and soaking it down again.

The next layer was contents from the compost heap, most of which was greenery I’d cleared from around the dead spruce trees that were cut down. This got another soak, another scattering of soil, and yet another soak.

The next layers were grass clippings and shredded paper. This time, after soaking it all down, I walked back and forth over the whole thing, to try and compact and break the buried branches more.

It as at times like this that being a woman of generous proportions comes in handy. 😉

Yet another thin layer of soil was added and soaked down.

Note the gap between the box and the board path. By this point, it had become a bit of a safety hazard! Without the soil to hold them in place, the boards at the edge kept moving and catching on my feet, and I was constantly catching myself to avoid twisting my ankle in the loose and lumpy soil in the gap.

Another thin layer of grass clippings was added and hosed down. At this point, the fill in the new raised bed is about the same level as in the first one. Adding the extra and larger branches made a noticeable difference, even after being tromped down.

Once this was done, it was time to amend the remaining soil on the tarp. I added about half a 40 pound bag of wood pellets, as was done in the first raised bed, and then a couple of wheel barrow loads of new garden soil was brought over; one added to the soil and wood pellets on the tarp, and the other added directly on top of the grass clippings, then raked out as evenly as I could.

It was about this time that a daughter came out with the kitchen compost buckets, so that got added straight into the raised bed and spread out, then hosed down again.

The next while was spent mixing the soil and wood pellets together, as much as I could, before adding it to the bed.

Once the soil was added, it was raked out evenly. This layer was NOT hosed down, though.

One more layer of grass clippings was added as mulch, then it got one last, very thorough, soak with the hose. This was the time to clean up the sides and edges, too.

This is as much as will be done in the bed, this year. Both beds will get more amendments added to them in the spring, after they’ve had a winter to settle and sink.

Also, remember the gap in the path on the other side of the bed?

I was going to work on filling that to make it safe, but I had reached my limit. A daughter will be working on that for me later. As these beds have been worked on, and rocks were found, I had been tossing them next to a nearby stump; you can see it in the background, with some bricks on it. Those can be gathered to use as fill in the large gap on the far side of the bed, and more boards will be added, and whatever else my daughter can thing of to make it safe to walk on. The eventual plan is to cover the board paths with sand and gravel.

After this, there is still the third bed in this location to be made, but with the beets still growing, there is no hurry. The last bed will be just one board high, as that is all the wood of this type we have left, but these boards are slightly wider, plus we still have plenty of the scrap wood bits to use as a foundation, so it shouldn’t be too much of a difference.

Two raised beds down; seven more to go! 😀

The Re-Farmer

First low raised bed, part two: done!

Today, I was able to get back to working on our first low raised bed. The first thing I had to do was scrounge through a shed and the barn, looking for something I could use to support the long sides and prevent them from bowing outwards once the bed is full of soil.

I found a piece that was strong enough, and long enough that I could cut it in half, first, then cut the two pieces in half at an angle, so they could be driven into the ground. Two were used for this bed, and the other two will be for the next one. The soil here is soft enough that I was able to use the pretty sledge hammer I found in the pump shack to hammer them in. I wasn’t too worried about them being perfectly straight. If this were a high raised bed, I’d be sinking posts to support them.

Next, I shoveled about half of the soil into the box, raking it out against the sides a bit, then added soil all around the box to bury the wood foundation. In total, that took up about 2/3 of the soil on the tarp. The wood foundation will break down over time, and I expect the whole box will slowly sink with it, but I don’t expect this to last more than a few years. Hopefully, by the time these need to be replaced, we’ll have access to more permanent materials and can replace them with high raised beds.

Now it was time to amend the remaining soil.

First I added about half a bag of wood pellets (roughly 20 pounds), maybe less, then got a load of the garden soil we bought in the spring.

An arm full of grass clippings was added on top of the load of soil, then a second load of soil was added.

The whole thing was mixed together using a garden fork and the tarp itself. After a while, I shoveled about a third of it into the box, then used the tarp to mix it some more, shoveled more into the box, mixed the remains with the tarp again, and by then I was able to use the tarp to heave the whole thing into the box and dump the mixture out.

Then it was time to level it all out.

I also used the back of a hoe to tamp down the soil around the outside of the box a bit. If I can figure out how to transport it, after all the beds are done, I want to bring gravel from the pit over, to put around the boxes and in the paths.

The final step was to cover it all with a grass clipping mulch and give it all a soak. It was a good chance to power wash the box itself a bit, in the process.

Here, you can see some of the wood pellets. This is why I decided to use these. Once the water hits the pellets, the sawdust begins to absorb it and expands pretty much immediately. Which means that all the pellets that are buried in the soil will push the soil away, breaking it up and preventing compaction. Depending on the conditions for the next while, these should decompose completely by the time we’re ready to plant into here, together with the grass clippings, adding organic matter that will keep the soil light and increase moisture retention.

As you could see from the previous photo, the box is not full to the top. It is, however, at a stage that it could be left as is, and be ready for planting in the spring. I might have a lead on getting a truck load of manure. If that pans out, and we can get some this fall, I would use some and, together with the garden soil and probably other organic material, top up the boxes. We shall see. Either way, this should all settle further over the winter, so I expect to need to add more material in the spring, before planting.

For now, the bed is done. The next two will be done the same way, though I still have to build the box for the bed that has beets growing in it. That will wait until after the second box is set up, since there’s nothing to do with that bed until the beets are harvested.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: second box done

Sadly, we didn’t get any more rain today, but it has been very windy. Enough that we lowered the canopy tent as far as it can go, so reduce the chances of wind damage. It still has our camp chairs and makeshift table that we were using to cure onions on a screen, under it, and we can still duck under to sit in it.

I feel like a little kid in a fort. It’s awesome!

But I digress!

There was a break in the wind, and I took advantage of it to build the second low raised bed box to go where the garlic had been.

The build went much faster than the first one, now that we’ve got it figured out.

With stuff we’ve got going on over the next few days, we won’t be able to work on the third one, nor prep the empty beds for next year, until after the weekend. Which rather sucks, because the next couple of days are going to be really nice, then by Sunday, we’re expected to hit 33C/91F, and stay above 30C/86F for at least a few days. At least there is the possibility of more rain as well.

The third box will be a very quick build, since it will be only 1 board high. The bed it’s going to go on still has beets growing in it, so there is no hurry on that one. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: first raised bed box

With the garlic all harvested, we’ve got two empty beds that need to be readied for next year’s garden.

With these beds, we had dug into the soft soil we found under the wood pile, mounding soil into beds and making paths in between. This worked out quite well, but there were a couple of issues. One was, for such low raised beds, I found them too wide. They were about 4 feet wide, which would be fine for a high raised bed, but awkward to reach the middles on a low bed. That was partly solved by putting a board across the middle, which served to both mark where the different varieties of garlic were, and to give something to step on while trying to reach into the middle.

What can I say. I’m short.

The other issue was that the soil along the edges would end up in the paths, either from watering or from when the birds were digging around the garlic, early in the season.

The solution to both issues was to build a narrower box frame.

After scavenging in one of the sheds, I found some boards that would serve the purpose.

I dragged them all over to the beds. Here you can see one of them laid at the first bed I want to frame.

In total, I had 17 boards like the one in the foreground, plus 4 more that were the same length and thickness, about about an inch wider.

I decided to keep things simple.

I left four boards as is, then cut another four in half. The boards were all 6′ 1/2″ long and 5 1/4″ wide. Some of the half pieces would be used to increase the length, while the rest would be for the ends of the bed. I cut support pieces for the corners and to join the lengths together from some wood leftover from another project. Those were cut to match the width of two boards together.

The long sides were made by screwing the boards to the support pieces. The boards all have damage to them, ranging from old water damage and some rot, to splitting and cracking from being so very dry. Which is fine. They will do the job, and will last a few years, at least.

What wasn’t fine was flipping a board and almost catching my hand on these!!! They look like the screws were broken off on the other side, so there is no way to unscrew them from the wood. I have to think about the best way to get rid of these, using what tools we have, but for now, we’ll just have to watch out for them!

Once the side pieces were screwed together, making sure they matched in length, I brought over a couple of the wider boards to give a flatter, more even, surface to work on while putting on the end pieces.

Then I quickly tacked it together with just a single screw at each corner, to hold everything together while I worked.

Oddly, one piece was almost an inch longer than the others! Which is okay; the excess can be sawed off, later.

Here we have it! The finished box, next to the bed it will be placed at.

Here, you can see the difference in the dimensions quite clearly.

The box is about 9 feet long by 3 feet wide, and about 11 inches high.

In preparing these beds before planting the garlic, we dug out the soil and buried layers of straw and compost material at the bottom. Since the dimensions are being changed so much, I plan to dig out the beds again, then once the box frame is in position, will start filling it, hugelkulture style, by burying some of the branches we’ve been pruning for the past few years at the bottom, then layering the contents of our compost pile on top of that. Straw decomposes slowly, so I expect to find it when digging the bed out. If I do, I’ll be keeping it separate from the soil, so it can be layered back on again. As for the top layer of soil, I’ll take advantage of the situation to get rid of the weeds by their roots, then mix in some of the garden soil we purchased this year, before returning it to the bed. This soil tested healthier than anywhere else we took samples from, but it was still low in nitrogen, so adding the fresh soil will be a benefit. Once we have the materials again, the top will get layers of mulch to protect the soil.

I have enough wood to make a second box frame just like this one. I plan to build the second box before I start digging out soil. With the wider boards, there is enough to make a third frame for the bed that still has the beets in it, though it will be only one board high.

When this area is done, there will be three longer, narrower, framed beds with wider paths in between. This will make them much more accessible, even at their relatively low height.

Hopefully, I will be able to continue working on this tomorrow, but we’ll see how the day goes. I’ve got our rescheduled court date for the restraining order against our vandal in the morning. Hopefully, it’ll actually happen this time – and if the security guards try to tell me to leave and come back later, I will stay close this time.

The Re-Farmer

Row cover adaption

When we planted for a fall harvest, we did as much as we could to make row covers to protect our seedlings. We had enough materials for only two chicken wire covers, then made do with other materials for the third bed.

We rigged what we could to protect the last bed, but the grasshoppers really did a number on the seedlings. I ended up using old water bottles with their bottoms cut off to protect the remaining bits of seedlings, hoping they would recover. As you can see by the green in some of the bottles, there has been growth!

They can’t stay under the bottles, though, as they need wind and air to be strong. However, if we just took off the bottles, they’d only get eaten by critters.

The bed nearby was pretty much wiped out by the grasshoppers.

Even though the ends of the covers were open, the critters didn’t seem to want to go under them, but there is no such barrier for the grasshoppers!

The third bed is doing a bit better. The radishes may have lots of damage to them, but they’re the biggest ones we’ve got right now. The only surviving chard is in this bed, too.

Since the middle bed was the most damaged, I decided to modify the cover and move it to another bed. In cleaning up the new part basement, we found a roll of window screen. I’d used some of it to make covers for the rain barrles, but there was still quite a bit left.

The cover is wider than the mesh. One length of it was enough to cover most of the chicken wire, but after cutting the remaining mesh in half and adding it, I was left with a small gap.

The edges of the screen were stapled to the wood frame, including enough to cover the ends. I tided down the mesh to the chicken wire just enough to keep it from moving.

A dear friend had sent us a couple of those mesh curtains that are meant to go over doors. The idea being, the mesh would keep the bugs out, but still allow wind in. They are tacked to the door frame, and the middle is held closed with magnets. The hope was that we could set them up in the old basement door, to keep the cats from going in there, but they could just push their way through the magnets. 😦

One of the panels was perfect to cover the gap.

The outer edge is stapled to the frame. The fabric is reinforced there, since it’s supposed to be tacked onto a door frame, so there is no damage there. Amazingly, the magnets are holding to the chicken wire enough to keep it one!

Once it was ready, it was time to set up the garden bed.

Even covered by water bottles, there was still grasshopper damage!! Some had never recovered from being eaten, at all. While removing the bottles, the soil wanted to stick to the them, too, and that quite nearly pulled up several of the plants. 😦

After making sure those that had been disturbed had soil pressed in for supper, it was time to add the new cover.

I’m quite happy with this.

It will be worthwhile to get more window screen mesh!

Since the ends are covered with window screen, it made it easier to add the shade cloth.

The surviving seedlings in the now-uncovered bed to things much bigger than little water bottles to protect them. The grasshoppers can still get in, but it’s still better than nothing.

Then all the beds got their shade cloths to protect them from the heat of the day.

When we make our permanent raised beds, they will be shorter. I actually like the length of these – they’re about 15 feet long – but it makes the protective covers awkward to handle, and we just didn’t have the materials to make them the same length. The covers are only about 13 feet long. I’m thinking 10 feet will work better, but we shall see when the time comes.

Until we can get the materials to build them, it’s a moot point, anyhow!

Whatever we end up with, having window screen mesh on a frame to keep the insects out seems to be more practical than the mosquito netting we’re using as floating row covers.

The Re-Farmer

First tree stump bench made!

I had cleaned up the dead spruce tree I’d cut down, a few days go, but only now got to continue working in the area.

Because of how the tree had landed, I used the baby chainsaw to clear away all the non-weight bearing branches first, and was left with this giant insectoid shape! 😀 After clearing away the last of the branches, I was going to break the trunk down further with the electric chain saw, but when that turned out to not be working properly, I just left the trunk to the side. We’ll have to take care of it later.

Today, I broke out the reciprocating saw and used it to finish trimming the top of the stump.

Happily, the wood in this stump is nice and solid.

The other trunk, from the tree we took down 3 summers ago? Not only did it have ant damage, but as I was trimming it with the reciprocating saw, it was vibrating at root level!

Well. That changed my plans.

At first, I figured I would just make a seat instead of a bench, but I really wanted a bench.

I used one of the boards that would be a horizontal support to mark off and cut the stump, using the reciprocating saw. At this point, I was still thinking of making a seat, but figured this stump was solid enough to support a bench. I cut the support pieces to a couple of inches shorter than the board that would be the seat, found the middles, then drilled pilot holes.

Despite using a level when positioning the support pieces, they still ended up uneven!

Though at least part of that is because one of the boards was warped.

Ah, well. I wasn’t going to start over! The only thing I did have to do was trim the top of the stump with a hand saw a bit, to make it even with the support pieces.

Then it was time to screw on the board for the seat.

You can see on the far right, that there was a substantial gap! I ended up making a wedge from a scrap piece of wood and jamming it in, then screwing the board in place, though the wedge and into the horizontal support.

As I was doing that, I could feel the bench wobbling a bit and decided the ends needed extra support. I didn’t want to put too much stress on the screws holding it to the stump, even though there are quite a few of them, and they are longer than needed. I had the pieces of wood I’d cut off the horizontal supports, so I trimmed those to size and added them at the ends to make legs. The main support is still the stump. The legs are just enough to give a little extra support, if there is too much weight at an end. The ground under them is soft, so if they were to be weight bearing, I would have wanted to add something solid under them, like a brick or some flat rocks

And there we have it! Our very first tree stump bench. 😀 And I must say, it felt SO good to have someplace to sit down when I was done! It was the perfect height for me and my messed up knees, too. In fact, I used my knees to judge what height to trim the stump down to, and with the height added by the thickness of the seat board, it worked out just right.

Now it just needs a good scrubbing and a paint job to protect it from the elements. The board I found for the seat still has some paint on it, so it’s not too urgent.

I am quite pleased with how this turned out. We have so many dead trees in the spruce grove that need to be cut down, with some of them fairly close to each other. My thought was to cut them to leave stumps that could be used to make seats and tables, making sure that some of the seats are a bit higher, for my husband to be able to use comfortably. This bench is the first experiment to see if the idea is viable, and I’m happy to say that it is. Most of the greenery you can see behind the bench are a flower patch that we uncovered when cleaning up in this area, and have been leaving alone, as we mow or trim around it. Which means that, over time, we’ll be able to sit here in the shade, surrounded by lovely yellow flowers. 🙂

Over time, we will have many seats like this, scattered all around the the inner yard, as we continue to clean up among the trees, and turn the inner yard into a lovely haven.

I feel a sense of peace, just thinking about it!

The Re-Farmer