I was hoping to avoid that

After giving my hips a chance to recover, it was time for more manual labour today!

Today, I decided to do a bit more cleanup around the junk pile, so I could access some dead trees that need to be taken down.

Here is how it looked before I started.

We have our ongoing battle with the spirea that’s choking everything out, so I wanted to pull them up by the roots as much as possible.

Some of them had roots so long, they started going under things. I pushed them aside after a certain point, so I could focus on clearing around three specific dead trees.

The thistles were much more of a problem. The thorns go right through my work gloves!

I did leave on thing behind, besides some wildflowers.

There was a little Saskatoon bush, at the base of one of the trees, and it’s actually trying to produce berries! Weather willing, the berries you see will turn a deep, dark purple, and look a bit like blueberries.

Once the area was cleared of tripping hazards, I started taking down the first tree, using a bucksaw. Because of where these trees are, I tried to do it in such a way that it would fall in a space between some other spruces. I didn’t want it falling towards the open yard, because then it might land on the beet bed or compost pile, or some Saskatoon bushes and an elm tree we want to keep.

It almost worked.

It fell too far to the south, and got hung up on another dead tree, that’s right nest to a still live one.

I was able to wrap some rope around the trunk and get it off the stump, but it would not come loose from the dead tree it was entangled in.

So I moved on to the next tree. This time, it actually fell into the gap I wanted it to fall into.

It still got hung up! I had hoped these trees would be heavy enough that the dead branches would break and let them fall to the ground, but apparently, they are still quite strong.

On the plus side, I was very pleased with what I saw after cutting them down.

The wood is nice and solid, with no sign of rot or ant damage. This is very encouraging, because I want to use the logs. These nice, solid stumps will later be used to make seats and tables.

Here is how it looked when I stopped for the day. I did try to use the rope and our van to try and get that first tree loose from the dead tree it’s hooked up on, but the rope kept breaking. We don’t have any stronger rope. If we’re going to need to use the van anyhow, I will pick up some sturdy rope and hook it up to near the base of the trunks, and pull the entire trees out into the yard, where we will break them down.

Since the wood is in such good shape, these will be used to make the high raised beds we will be building in the main garden area, where we currently have the low raised beds we’d planted spinach, onions and carrots in. I’m thinking of cutting the logs into 10 ft and 4 ft lengths, and I figure it will take about 4 logs to get the accessible height we are after, though of course, that will depend on how big the individual trees are. We don’t have a lot of time left, if we want to get these ready for next year. I’m hoping to get at least a couple built for next year. By using whole logs like this, we won’t have any concerns about the sides bowing out under the weight of the layers of wood, compostable materials and soil they will be filled with.

Once these dead trees closer to the edge of the spruce grove are down, we’ll be able to feel the other ones towards the yard, and there will be no other trees for them to get hung up on!

Once all the dead trees in this corner are down, and the area is cleaned up, we will be able to convert the trunks into seating and surfaces. Then we can start planting food trees that need a protected microclimate. I will be testing the soil, and if the acidity from all those decades of spruce needles is high enough, I hope to be able to plant blueberries. We do still want to grow a mulberry tree, since the one we got this spring got killed off by that one cold night in May, and it was in here that we originally intended to plant it. I think, this time, we will try and get a Canadian variety we found out about, that is increasingly endangered. We will still need the microclimate for it, but if we can help keep a variety at risk going, that’s what we prefer to do, if we can.

There are a lot more dead trees further to the east and around to the south, inside the spruce grove. Some will also have their trunks converted to seating, but as we go further into the grove, I want to start transplanting more spruces into the spruce grove! 🙂

While we are getting rid of the spirea, we will be leaving the wild roses and red bark dogwood as underbrush. I will probably take out most of the chokecherries I’m finding in here, as there are so many, to make room for the Saskatoons to spread. We will also be transplanting new spruces in here, though more strategically. Lots to do, but I am really looking forward to when we have a lovely little sanctuary in here, where we can sit and enjoy the outdoors, somewhat protected from the elements by the trees. 🙂

For now, however, I’m going to get some tweezers, and get that thistle thorn that got through my gloves!

The Re-Farmer


The girls had gone out for a walk and excitedly told me I needed to go outside – with a camera!

You know those garlic in the snow I got a picture of this morning?

There’s more of them now!

The two on the left where not there this morning!

We also have a first appearance.

One of our muscari (grape hyacinth) has emerged! The first of (hopefully!) 200. 😀

Though today has stayed just below freezing, it was enough that a lot of areas warmed up and the snow melted. Including roofs.

Long before we moved out here, the storage house got a new roof, but the eaves troughs were never reattached. In fact, the other side has none at all. So most of the snow melting off the roof just drips straight down.

(Also, that wasp nest is a couple of years old and empty)

Which made for an interesting double layer of icicles on one of the step below. 😀

Unfortunately, ice has also formed directly on the grape vines at ground level.

If these have survived the winter, we really need to find a better spot to transplant them!

The nearby spirea can handle the ice just fine!

It’s like the cross bar on the grape vine support is exactly under the drip line! 😀

The cats, meanwhile, are wisely staying out of the wind! I was surprised and pleased to see Butterscotch in there, with her boy Nutmeg. 🙂

It’s so awesome to be seeing anything growing in the weather we’ve been having! Talk about resilient! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Just a bit more…

I wasn’t able to get back to working on getting the tire planter out (I can wiggle it a bit more, though! 😀 ), but yesterday evening I decided to deadhead the spirea by the storage house.

I also cut them back from the grapes they were starting to encroach on again.

As I was doing that, I noticed some dead branches and figured I may as well take them out, too.

And those other ones.

Oh, and there are a few more…

Just a bit more…

The next thing I knew…

Continue reading

Found it!

We have finally reached a point where enough snow has melted away, and the yard is dry enough, that I can walk around most of the yard.

At least while the ground is still frozen in the mornings.

Which meant I have finally been able to look for the base of the grape vine that got surrounded by spirea, next to the storage house.

I found it.


It’s still hard to see, so I put the arrow in. It’s hard to see because there is a spirea growing right up against it!

I’m going to have to be very careful, clearing that away.

Then I can prune it back and set up some kind of trellis for it to climb. I’m thinking of using the left over wire fencing I used to build the back gate. After that, it will be a matter of keeping the spirea from crowding it again. Hopefully, this will translate to better, bigger grapes to harvest this year. If nothing else, it’ll be easier to get to them! 🙂

While doing my much extended rounds this morning, I had some delightful company.


Butterscotch does make it hard to walk at times. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

This is concerning, plus progress

Not a lot was done in the yard today.  We made a much needed dump run with garbage and recycling – including a lot of garbage from cleaning the sun room out, then my younger daughter and I went into town to run some errands (plus play some Pokemon Go for community day, while we were there 😉 ).  It was almost evening when we got back, but I still wanted to get at least a bit more clean up done today.

As I headed over to the Eastern end of of the bushes and trees I’ve been clearing out, I found something very disorienting.

In the false spirea I was planning to clean out was a large branch.

Funny, I think to myself.  I thought I’d cleared away the crab apple branches I’d cut.  Did I miss one?

Except this branch wasn’t a dead branch.  It was mostly green.  I didn’t remember cutting a green branch in that area and leaving it there.  Also, it wasn’t apple.

Then I started to pull it out and saw the end of it.

At which point, I stopped to take pictures.

Here is the branch I found.


It’s a maple.  Aside from a couple of small dead side branches, it is in full leaf.


That’s burnt wood right there.

What the heck?

I started looking around to see where it came from.  Then I called my daughters out to look, too, just to make sure I wasn’t jumping to conclusions.

This is where we think it came from.


The arrow at the top is pointing to the end of a branch that we think it came from.

The double ended arrow is between the two power lines.

If my guess is correct, some time during the night, the branch hit the live power line, got burned, then broke and fell down.

Now, I can’t say for sure that this is where it came from, but it must at least be close to the source.  There just aren’t any other maples close enough.

I am not feeling confident about this.

I had asked for the electric company to come out and check the line a second time when, after the first time they came out, the woman who followed up with me could not see anything that said they’d checked more than our own power line to the house.  The second call, I basically was told the same thing as the first time; whenever we hire someone to clear the lines, let them know and they’ll cut the power for us.  I don’t know when anyone came to check the lines a second time; this was after we had to put locks on our gates, and we did not get a call from anyone to let them in.  However, someone could have stopped on the main road and simply ducked through the barbed wire fencing.  The locks just keep vehicles out.  People can get through easily.

I’ll be asking some advice from family who works with the electric company before I call them again.  There’s no point in calling again, if they expect us to clear their lines.

After clearing the burned branch away, I cut back the spirea completely.  Here is the before picture from a few days ago.


All I did was cut away the spirea, plus break off a few dead lilac branches that were overhanging them, so I wouldn’t stab myself in the face or something.

Here is how it looks now.


To the right of the lilacs was the beginning of a path to the big garden.  It is now almost clear and open again.  At least at this end.  The other end has dead spruces partially blocking it.

Here is another look at the lilacs.


You can see where I broke off the branches that were overhanging the spirea.  Most of the lilacs appear dead.  These lilacs used to be so thick with greenery and flowers, you couldn’t see stems and branches.

It should be interesting to see how they recover, once all this is cleared up and they are getting sun and space again.  It might take a few years, but lilacs are so resilient, I am sure they will grow back well.

There is still lots of work to do, but it doesn’t take much for it to look so much better.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: after

I have just finished working on the bushes in the west yard, near the fire pit, for the day.  It’s not finished, but there is a storm moving in, and I did get the big stuff done.

So I have after pictures I can show you.

I actually went deeper in then I’d intended to.  I started in the area around the linden and plum trees, to get more dead branches down, and everything was getting so hung up, I had to go further in, just to stop that from happening.

In the process, I found the lilacs that used to form a tunnel I’d crawled into as a child.


Yeah.  Most of the lilacs are dead.

Between these and the tree directly behind the linden tree, there was just no way to avoid getting hung up on dead branches.

Here is the after, for this area.


Still lots to clean up, but the dead stuff is mostly gone.  The remains of the lilacs might actually survive.  They are very hardy.

Here is what it looked like around the linden tree, when I finished up.


Then I started working my way down the rows.

Here is the before of the first section;


I believe this is another crab apple tree, and it looks like it has some sort of fungal disease.  I cut away lots.  Here is it, now.


I freed up more plum trees in the process.

There are still signs of spotted and yellowing leaves higher up in the apple tree, but I got as much as I could reach for now.

While working in between the rows (there are three rows in total, in this location), if I had to choose between getting rid of a caragana and something else, or a false spirea and something else, I would choose the something else.  This was not a difficult thing as, in the process, as the “something else” was usually a fruit tree.  I also found a giant caragana in the back row.  Unfortunately, the biggest trunk of it was dead and so rotten, I broke it off and yanked it out without having to cut anything.

In fact, I was doing that a lot, today.  Yanking stuff out right by the roots, or breaking them and pulling them out.

The next section has a dead tree in it.  Here is what it looked like before.


There was a lot of false spirea around the base of it.  In clearing that out…


… I freed up some more plum trees.

That dead tree is going to need more than the little hand saw to take it down! So it stays, for now.  Though I was able to just break a branch off of it.

Next was another crab apple tree.


This one has a lot of tiny apples starting to grow on it, but it also is starting to show spots on the leaves. 😦

Also, a lot more of it was dead then I thought!


I was taking out lots of dead branches, and even a couple of trunks.

Like this one.


This is probably the biggest thing I cleaned out today.  It wasn’t until I cut it, then started dragging it out, that I realized how big it was, so much was hidden among the branches.

There is still lots to do here, including clearing out the section of false spirea at the end, so I can reach the dead lilacs behind it.  It’s going to be a while before all the bits of dead branches and twigs on the ground are cleaned up, though I did take out the hidden ones I found by stepping on them.

All of this was about 3 hours of work, give or take.

When I was a kid and mowing the lawn in this area, when the crab apples at the end of the row were full of fruit, I would pick a whole bunch of them when I went under it,  I would eat them as I mowed my circuit, then gather more when I got back.  They were small, hard green apples, and very sour.  I loved them!

We also had a pear tree next to this crab apple tree.  It was another small, hard variety.  My father told me about having this variety when he was growing up in Poland.  They were too hard to eat as they were, but they would be gathered and buried under rocks in the fall.  In the winter, they would freeze.  Later, the rocks would be removed, and the frozen pears taken out.  The freezing not only softened them, but made them sweet, as well.

I have no idea what happened to that tree.

I also wonder what happened to the mountain ash (aka rowan) that used to be here, about were the current diseased apple tree is. We had a few of them.  They never got very big; nothing like the ones in the city we just moved from – I had no idea they got that big until we started living there!  But they were beautiful, and produced masses of red berries.

A lot has changed over the years we’ve been away, but a surprising amount has stayed the same, too.

The Re-Farmer

Ready to Go, and a nice surprise

Today, my older daughter and I confirmed that the mower would fit in the back of our van, took out the seats, emptied it of my crates of supplies (we kept the emergency kit and cooler of van water, though), and loaded it up.


I won’t be taking it to the shop until they open on Tuesday.  I had thought of dropping it off tomorrow, but my brother tells me they don’t have a secure drop off point.

Which means the mower, with an almost full tank of gas, will be in the van for two nights and a day, in the heat we are having again.

I made sure to open the windows a fair bit.  Plus, we still haven’t replaced the handle on the garage door (I finally got some replacement cable for it), so it’s wide open.  No chance of accumulated fumes.

Earlier in the day, I went into town with my younger daughter so she could drop off some resumes, and we could pick up a few things at the grocery store.  There’s a hardware store next to it, so I popped over for a bit.  Turns out they don’t have fan rakes, but they did have metal roasting sticks.  So I picked up a few for our next cook out. 🙂

My mom called while we were out, so I called her back as soon as we got home.  She was wondering how we were doing in this heat (we were hovering around 30C today), and telling us that if we open the basement doors, we would get cool air.  I remember doing that, when I was growing up here.  It works very well. Unfortunately, we can’t do that until we’ve cleaned up the basements.  The old part basement is pretty good, but the new part basement is filled with all sorts of breakable things (years of accumulated jars and booze bottles, spare florescent light tubes, etc.), and way too many hidey holes that the cats would get into.

While we were talking, I told her about the different areas I’ve been working on.  I found out that she did, indeed, deliberately plant those little spruce trees at the fence line.  Why there, I ask her.  Where else? she answers.  😀  So I bring up that, when the trees are full grown, they will destroy the fence.  Oh, by the time they’re that big, she says, it won’t matter.  I think she was implying the fence would be old, or would be replaced before then?  I’m not sure.  I told her I will be transplanting them, once I find a good place of them.  Much to my surprise, she just said not to worry about them for now.  Considering that, earlier in the conversation, when I told her I cleaned up around her white lilacs, she thought that meant I had cut them down, this is a good thing. 😀

Then I mentioned wanting to clean up the bushes growing around the other house.


In the past, these false spirea had covered the old stairs on both sides, as the wood rotted away.  I remember this because, when we made a road trip to visit family after getting our first van, I had tried to go to the door and a step gave out under me!  Now there are nice strong steps, and I want to keep them well maintained.

Which means cutting back the spirea.  Plus, I’ll be thinning away the dead branches, etc.

As I tell my mother this, she asks me how her vines are doing.


All I could think of were the vines I’ve been finding all over the place, choking out trees and bushes.

No.  Vines.  She had planted them by the steps.  How are they doing?

Well, I did notice what appeared to be dead vines in the spirea, which I thought were the same vines I’ve been getting rid of all over.  That was not what she was talking about.

Then she mentioned she’d actually picked from them.

Picked what?  Berries?  I had no idea what she was talking about.  The only vines I’ve seen don’t have berries.

Finally, she remembered the English word for them; grapes.

We have grapes?!?

That’s on my list of food plants, too, but at the bottom of the list, since they need a lot more tending than most plants.

I told her I didn’t remember seeing any, and perhaps the spirea had choked them out? I told her I would check.

Which I did.


Lo and behold, there are, indeed, vines growing that aren’t the ones we’ve been fighting for the past while.

Not only that…


… there are even little baby grapes started!

I will have to ask my mom if she remembers what kind they are, so I can look up how to properly care for them.  There are not a lot of varieties of grapes that are hardy enough for our growing zone, so even if she doesn’t, I should be able to figure it out.

I do know that they shouldn’t be the way they are now!  If possible, I would want to transplant them to the fence, which can be used as a trellis, and they will have full sun.  With judicious care, we should be able to get good harvests of grapes from them.

Oh, I am suddenly quite excited!  I had no idea my mother had ever planted grapes!  She’d simply never mentioned them before.

I filled in my mother about all sorts of things, from what the electric company told me about clearing the trees, and my wanting to get a quote for the job, so we know what to budget for, to progress on the flower gardens.  She had a hard time understanding some of what I was telling her, sometimes.  She has what she’s always done so firm in her mind, it’s hard for her to picture something different, just from a description.  But it was a good conversation, overall, even if she doesn’t seem quite sure about what I am doing.  When it gets to a certain point, though, she starts talking about how this is all men’s work, so she will talk to my older brother about it, so he can take care of it.  We got to that point in the conversation, but I didn’t mind too much at all, since she started talking about how good my dad was about taking care of things, and how he understood electricity and plumbing and so on.  Then she started talking about how women’s work was housekeeping and so on, and I just kept saying, no.  Nope.  No.  Until she started to say, well, that’s how she and my dad did things, and that worked for them, but others might do it differently.

Yay, Mom!  That right there was a HUGE step for her, and I am so proud of her. 🙂

It was a good conversation.

Later on, while talking to my older brother, he told me he’d just talked to our mom as well.  At one point during their conversation, he told me that my mom expressed her satisfaction with how we are taking care of the place.

She would never tell me that to my face, of course, but I don’t expect her to.  For her to say it to my brother, however, is another HUGE step, and I am so proud of her. 🙂

I am happy that we are able to take care of this place for her.  It takes a big burden off of her shoulders, and it’s been pretty good for us, too (as much as possible, under the circumstances! 😀 ).  She was having a hard time with letting go, which is understandable.  If she is reaching the point where she is able to start trusting that we know what we’re doing, even if it’s different than how she did things, that will also reduce stress for her.

Win, win! 🙂

The Re-Farmer