Our 2022 garden: ground cherry, popcorn and we surrender!

The rain held off this afternoon, so I headed out to where we finally decided to transplant the ground cherries.

After thoroughly dousing myself with mosquito repellant!!

This spot by the compost heap has been covered with that sheet of metal for about 2 years. The metal was placed there as something to put grass clippings on top of, so they’d be easier to collect and use later on.

Isn’t it amazing that, even while under metal, things were still trying to grow under there? !!

The soil was so soft under there, I could easily push the garden fork deeper than the length of the tines, and probably could have gone deeper if I’d wanted to. The ground was also pretty saturated, so it was muddy work to loosen the soil and pull out any roots – including some thoroughly rotted roots from the old tree stump under the compost pile nearby! No watering needed after they were planted, that’s for sure. In fact, I’m a bit concerned it might be too wet for them. We shall see.

The groundcherries got a good mulch with some of the grass clippings I had to move off the sheet of metal in order to move it. Here, they can be left to self seed, and hopefully we’ll get them year after year. We’ll just have to make sure they don’t spread too far and become invasive, which I’ve heard some people have had problems with.

The sheet of metal, meanwhile, is now sitting on top of the tall grass and weeds next to the ground cherries, weighted down with rocks to keep it from blowing away. Hopefully, it will help keep the crab grass and other weeds from invading the ground cherries.

When my daughter came out to help, we went looking through all the garden beds, talking about what needed to be done in each, before she started working on where we decided to plant our corn.

First, she dug a fairly narrow trench for the Tom Thumb popcorn, between the green patty pans and the Boston Marrow. These have a slightly longer growing season – 85-90 days – so we wanted to get them in first.

After she dug the small trench, she moved to the space between the Boston Marrow and the Lady Godiva pumpkins. There’s more space there, and it’s where we will be planting the Latte corn, which needs only 65 days to maturity, and bush beans.

While she worked on that trench, I used the hand cultivator to loosen up the smaller trench, pulled out the bigger rocks, and as many weed roots as I could. Then it got a layer of shredded paper, and finally a about 1 1/2 wheelbarrow loads of garden soil was added. I also removed the divots of sod and dumped them under some trees. They are so full of roots and rocks, it wasn’t worth the time to try and salvage any of the soil.

The Tom Thumb popcorn only grows to about 4 feet. The instructions said to plant them 5 or 6 inches apart, and in rows 36 inches apart, in blocks of at least 4 rows.

Obviously, we didn’t do that.

What we did do was plant two rows, with all the seeds about 6 inches apart. Once the soil was ready, my daughter had finished removing sod in the other area, so I just went down the prepared row, poking pairs of holes into the soil while my daughter went along behind me, dropping the little bitty corn seeds in! 🙂

I’m glad we got those planted, because the next job was a killer.

In the second space, I went over it with the hand cultivator to get some of the bigger rocks out, and the more obvious roots. There’s just no way we could get rid of all the roots. While I worked on that, my daughter used one of the old, busted up wheelbarrows to get grass clippings. A full recycling bag of shredded paper went into the bottom, then grass clippings got scattered over the paper.

After dumping the remaining soil in the wheelbarrow in, my daughter went to get more soil with the good wheelbarrow, while I used the old one to remove the divots of sod.

I was reminded of just how badly broken up that old thing was! I’m amazed we got away with using it for as long as we did. In the end, I had to switch to the other old wheelbarrow. It’s smaller and also busted up, but at least it didn’t try to tip over every time I dropped a piece of sod in it, or roll away!

After a while, however, my daughter was waving the white flag. It was pretty hot, and very humid. For all the bug spray we used, we were just sweating it right off. The mosquitoes were after my daughter more than me (I reapplied bug spray, several times!), and after all the back breaking labour of removing sod, she was just done.

After she escaped the clouds of mosquitoes, I managed to move some more of the sod – using the good wheelbarrow! – before switching to getting a couple more loads of soil, and that was it. I surrendered, too! I think we did manage to get half of the area covered with fresh garden soil. The other half will probably need at least 4 – 6 more loads of soil, depending on how full the wheelbarrow is. It’s a fair distance to haul the soil from the pile in the outer yard, and we have to go around through the smaller person gate, rather than the closer vehicle gate, because there’s water there again, so we can’t get away with over filling it.

It’s a good thing the Latte corn and the bush beans we will be planting with them don’t need a lot of time to grow, because we probably won’t be able to work on this area tomorrow, and not just because I’m driving my mother to another medical appointment. We’re supposed to start raining again tonight, with thunderstorms over the next two days – complete with overland flow flooding alerts! I’ll be using my mother’s car to drive her. Hopefully, that one patch on the road near our place will stay solid enough by the time I am coming home, that her little car will get through. Anyhow; with the expected weather, we might not be able to finish this area and plant the Latte corn for several days.

By the time we’re done in this area, it will be quite intensely planted. Between that and the straw mulch we intend to add, I’m hoping that should keep the weeds down. Before that gets done, we’ll have to remove the rest of the sod and the piles of rocks scattered about.

It would have been much easier if we could do the carboard and straw like we did for the potato beds, but we just don’t have the carboard for that. We could get more later on, but we really wanted to get these in as quickly as possible. This will be the last direct sown seeds, besides any successive sowing we might do for a fall harvest.

This is also about as close as we’re getting to the “three sisters” method of planting. Hopefully, doing it this way will have the same benefits as the more traditional way. The only real problem I foresee is being able to access the bush beans to harvest them, when everything is all grown in. If we focus on putting the corn in the middle and the beans on the outside, we should be able to reach them okay. It’ll be trying to walk around the Boston Marrow and hulless pumpkins that will be more of a challenge, I think! With the Tom Thumb corn, it will be less of an issue, since they won’t be harvested until the cobs are completely dry on the stalk. Once the mulch is down, there’s not going to be much more needed for them.

If nothing else, this will be a learning experience.

And an experience in humility, as we get driven away by hoards of mosquitoes, trying to eat us alive!

I’m now going to go borrow my husband’s bath chair and shower off the smell of insect repellant now!

The Re-Farmer

Out of order, but it’s getting done

It had been my intention to work on clearing out that last low raised bed in the main garden area, at the very least, but once I got outside I changed my mind. There was less standing water in the yard, and the grass was getting out of control, so I decided to try mowing.

We have a large yard.

I was also using the collection bag to save those wonderful grass clippings to use as mulch. It doesn’t hold much, so there was a lot of stopping and starting to empty the bag.

After several hours, pretty much the entire inner yard was done. There was just one place that still had so much water that, even with the mower set higher than usual, it was just too deep. I even opened up the gate in the fence near the fire pit and mowed into the outer yard. I like keeping a lane in the grass to the back gate mowed, as an extension of the driveway. There’s too much water do to it in the usual areas, but I was able to clear a lane from the fire pit area, to where the lane would be. If we absolutely had to use the back gate, we would be able to drive through the inner yard to access it. We certainly wouldn’t be able to get through, the usual way!

Another of the goals will be to trim away some small trees taking over a corner, then mowing the areas where we will be planting the Korean Pine.

But not today!

Did I mention we have a large yard? 😀

The rest of the main garden area should get a once over with the mower, before going over it again with the weed trimmer, as close to the ground as possible, but I was just too exhausted to work on that today.

The ornamental apple trees are starting to bloom. So are the sour cherry trees, and all the lilacs are developing buds. Finally! That shows me that things have finally really warmed up, hopefully enough. I don’t know that we ever got frost last night, but the sweet potato slips are fine. I’m leaving the covers on them for one more night, though. Tonight is supposed to be the last cooler night, though I’ve noticed the forecasted overnight low has changed to quite a bit warmer than before.

Tomorrow, we start transplanting everything. The sun room is turning into quite the jungle!

We’ve had a very high germination rate this year – a huge improvement from last year! Even the Yakteen gourds, which I restarted, have a few seedlings. Some things had seeds germinate weeks apart, but they still made it. We even have a second tulip tree sprouting! We’d pretty much lost all expectation of any more tulip trees, or any paw paws, germinating, so that was quite a nice surprise.

Another nice surprise is that all the turnips have started sprouting already! My goodness, that was fast.

Today, the girls finished transplanting the silver buffalo berry, and prepped to plant the sea buckthorn tomorrow. After that, it’s just the Korean Pine for this year’s food forest additions.

My priority tomorrow will be to get the newest low raised bed next to the compost pile topped up and ready for planting. The Kulli corn will be going in there, and I want to get that done as quickly as possible. They really need to be transplanted soon. If we start them indoors again, I won’t do the toilet tube pots. It worked well enough, and it certainly saved space, but the seedlings quickly needed more room to thrive. Even if they were in just the red Solo cups, they would have fared well longer. Once the corn is transplanted, we’ll have to make sure to put a net around it right away, so they don’t get eaten!

The girls will start transplanting tomatoes along the chain link fence in the south yard. We have more tomatoes than will fit there, though, so others will be planted in the low raised bed that I finished prepping yesterday. There are so many, we might have to the last one that still needs to be weeded, too.

It’s going to be a flurry of transplanting over the next few days. The sun room is going to look so empty when we are done! 😀 We will also be direct sowing the pole beans at the squash tunnel, along with the 2 canteen gourds that are trying to claim their way out of their pots right now. Then there are the two types of corn to direct sow, and I honestly don’t know where we’ll be planting those. We’re really behind in preparing beds, but once those trees came in, they became the priority. Mowing and using the weed trimmer is also going to higher on the priority list, since the winter squash is going to be planted throughout the old garden area, not in prepared beds. Basically, we’re going to dig holes, add some garden soil and the transplants, and mulch around them. The grass is so tall right now, though, we couldn’t possibly get that done until it’s cleared.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sad garlic

I’m mentioned in previous posts, that two of our garlic beds are not doing well. We planted all three beds at the same time, last year.

While doing my rounds this morning, I caught one of the yard cats being… inappropriate… in one of the low raised bed and chased it off. On checking the damage, I saw it had dug up one of the cloves we planted last year.

That is most definitely a dead clove. You can see that it had started to sprout, which would have been the fall growth before the snow fell. It does seem like cold killed a lot of these off.

This garlic is from the bed planted with Rocambole garlic.

There were 90 cloves planted in this bed. This morning, I counted maybe 7, including what looked like a tip just barely breaking through.

The bed with Purple Stripe in it is doing a bit better, in that there are more emerging, but it still looks like less than half have survived the winter, and they are all so very tiny.

I am curious as to why these beds did so poorly over the winter, while the Porcelain Music planted in the low raised bed in the main garden are doing to very well right now. Could it be, that the slightly higher boxes offered less protection than the lower, log framed bed?

Well, whatever the reason, I hope what few have survived manage to do well, even if they are quite a bit behind in growth. It may just mean we’ll be harvesting them later in the summer.

The Re-Farmer

It works!

Here’s hoping it stays working.

Today, we finally had a chance to test out the washing machine as the appliance guy described.

And by “we”, I mean mostly my younger daughter, who pulled out the dryer so she could get to the back of the washing machine, pausing first to remove the broken flexible drier hose and getting the new one ready. With me as the person to pass her tools, she popped the back panel off the washing machine to find the air hose he described.

Which is when we discovered that when he said “back panel”, he meant the small back panel of the electronics at the top, not the large back panel of the machine.

The small panel took a lot more effort to get off. We ended up having to pry it off with a butter knife. !!

His instructions were to blow into the air hose (which turned out to be MUCH smaller than I expected) to make sure it wasn’t clogged. My daughter figured out where the end of the hose was, how to get it off, and tested it.

While we manually pumped water out of the tub, we couldn’t quite get all of it, so when she blew on the hose, we could hear air bubbles in the tub.

Which was good. It meant the hose wasn’t clogged.

That meant the next step was to do an empty wash cycle. After everything was put back together, we plugged the washer in and started the empty test load.

After we taped the spare sump pump hose to the end of the washer’s drain hose, running it out the window of the storm door. We still weren’t sure about the drain pipe in the wall being unclogged enough to not spray water all over the place again.

One of our other concerns was the washer’s tub. It was still lower than it should have been, and I was concerned something got broken under it. My daughter pointed out that it did still have water in it, so that was likely why it was lower.

With nothing in the tub, the timer set itself for only 35 minutes. She and I both stayed and watched through the window in the lid, her behind the machine and me in front of it, for the whole time.

I gotta tell ya, we were just thrilled when the washing machine actually stopped adding water when it was a few inches deep, just as the appliance guy said it should, and again when it finally reached the rinse cycle and actually drained properly, with no leaks in the cobbled together hoses leading outside.

Part way through, my older daughter came by to see if she could help. I got her to fill a container of water so we could test the drain pipe. It seemed fine, but with the washing machine going, we couldn’t be sure things weren’t gurgling further down the pipe.

Once the washer was done, with everything working fine and even the tub lifting itself up as high as it normally does, we tested the drain pipe again. This time, while my daughter poured the water down the drain as fast as the funnel would let her, I had my head in the kitchen sink, listening to the pipes.

Normally, we’d be hearing all sorts of gurgles. We always have. This time, I heard nothing.

Just to be on the safe side, though, we used the last of the Max Gel drain de-clogger, both in the kitchen sink and the drain pipe. While that was left to sit for half an hour, my daughter and I pushed the washer back into place, then she started working on the dryer hose.

She was able to get it on the fitting in the wall easily enough, but the one coming out the dryer is slightly larger. The hose is held in place with an iron spring clamp. I was expecting a screw clamp. The spring clam is such a pain! It took her almost an hour to get it on. It simply did not want to fit around the pipe from the drier, and the hose, at the same time.

While she fought with that, I waited on the drain cleaner, (and kept an eye on a roast in the oven) and boiled up a kettle of water to flush them both with. Usually we just run hot water, but the kitchen sink is far from the hot water tank and takes forever to get hot. Once the drains got their boiling water treatment, I ran the hot water in one sink, listening to the drain in the other.

Not a gurgle to be heard.

I honestly think we got finally got the pipes clear.

After all the troubles we’ve been having, though, we aren’t confident.

My daughters had to do some laundry, so as soon as the dryer hose was finally attached, they decided to give it a go. While the washing machine tub seems to be behaving properly, they’re still going to do a couple of small loads, instead of one big one – and the washing machine’s drain hose is still set up to drain outside!

The problem with the drain hose is that the only way we can be sure if it’s clear enough is to actually let the washing machine drain through it. There’s nothing else we have that can push that much water, under that much pressure, though the drain pipe. If it does start backing up again, we’ll end up with the same mess all over again.

For now, we’re going to baby the darn thing, with small loads, until we’re sure the tub can handle the weight before increasing it.

Then we’ll test out the pipes.

The Re-Farmer

Garden prep – getting work done outside

Oh, what a lovely, lovely day! I was able to get things done that have been waiting for a day like today.

Before I get to that, though, take a look and who I found.

Possibly the same grog (groundhog) I saw this morning. It was at a space under the fence critters use to get through the chain link, but there’s water there right now. Because I was so close, it wanted to run through, but didn’t want to go through the water! It ended up running down the fence towards the junk pile, and I didn’t see it again until I was back in the house. The girls told me it was at the feeding station outside our living room window! I could tell it was the same one because it’s got burrs or something it its fur.

Then, as I sat down at my computer to upload photos, I saw two grogs running across the driveway towards the inner yard.

*sigh*

We’re going to have our work cut out for us!

Anyhow. Back to business!

The first thing I wanted to get done was lay out the salvaged black tarps (or whatever they are) in the main garden area.

Click on the images to see them larger.

In the background, you can see sticks coming out of the ground where a groundhog’s den used to be. It took shoving those sticks into the hole and burying them to finally get it out of there. They will be trimmed, later.

The black plastic should help warm up the soil, while also killing off the grass and weeds. We will be growing potatoes here, using the Ruth Stout deep mulching method, to start reclaiming this area.

When we’ve used these tarps before, we’d weigh the edges down with rocks, bricks, fence posts – whatever we could find. Since then, I found a big bag of cheap metal tent pegs, so I used some of those to pin the tarps down. The ground is thawed enough that I had no problem pushing them through – except for the rocks.

So. Many. Rocks.

I think only one tent peg actually made it through with minimal problems, and even then, I could feel it pushing past more rocks.

We have three types of potatoes on the way. Two at 5kg/11 pounds and one at 1kg/2.2 pounds. We will likely break the spaces covered by the tarps into 4 beds with paths, if only to make things easier to reach. We may plant the two 5kg types of potatoes here, and find somewhere else of the 1kg of potatoes. Maybe use one of the two grow bags I picked up on sale, for such a small amount.

The next area I wanted to work on was the chimney block bed along the chain link fence. The last 4 blocks had been brought over and were waiting to be placed.

At this point, all I wanted to do was level off the soil with a hoe, then line the blocks up along the fence. The ground slopes downward along this area, and the gap under the chain link increases along the way. When we built the bed here last year, we had to add boards along the fence to keep the soil from washing away when we watered things. It didn’t work as well as in the other bed (the one now bordered with bricks, in the background) because of all that space under the fence. Having these blocks will solve the erosion problem.

The blocks won’t be filled quite yet. I want to put some more organic material at the bottoms before returning the soil, and adding more, if needed. The ones we filled last year look like they could use some topping up, too.

Next, it was the garlic and asparagus beds.

I’ve been reading up and watching videos about growing asparagus – which is not yet showing – and it seems they do well with deep mulching (as well as being planted together with strawberries, which we might do). The garlic beds have mulch on them that I have decided to take off, and move to the asparagus.

First, the garlic beds.

Click on the images to see them in a larger size.

Pulling back the mulch, I can feel that the soil has thawed around the edges, but the closer to the middle, the more frozen it is. In the photo on the right, you can see some of the ice crystals exposed as the mulch was pulled back.

Also, this is oat straw, and quite a lot of seeds got caught up with the straw. I was seeing quite few sprouting grains, like the one in that second photo! (click to enlarge)

Both beds are now uncovered. The bed that’s in the back was more frozen than the one in the foreground. I couldn’t pull off some of the mulch because it was stuck in ice.

Now that there is no longer mulch insulating the ice, it should be melted by the end of the day. We’re at 18C/64F as I write this, so it won’t take long for the beds to thaw, and the garlic can start growing again.

As for the straw mulch…

The red lines mark there the asparagus is, plus there is a narrow band around it, where we shoved in some tiny onions that were really too small for transplanting, but we didn’t want to just toss. They didn’t do well, which is not a surprise, but what is a surprise is that the bulbs survived the winter and are starting to grow! So when the mulch from both garlic beds was added over the asparagus, I made sure it was not really covering where the onions are.

Who knows. We might ended up being able to collect Norstar onion seeds this year!

The asparagus planted here is a purple variety, and this is its second year. Two years from now, we should be able to start harvesting them. We also plan to get green asparagus crowns, but we’ve got so many things to plant this year, it sort of went by the wayside. I’m still not sure where we’d want to plant them, since it would be permanent.

Maybe here?

When we first cleaned out there area, there was a tire planter that was a car tire cut in half around the circumference, the tire flipped inside out, and still attached to the rim, which raised it up a bit. I had dug it out and tipped the soil onto the ground, discovering it was covering the stumps of a maple – which promptly started to send up suckers! Then we discovered that the planter had been for a type of flower that spreads through rhizomes. Which means I inadvertently spread a weed.

When we built the bed here last spring, we used carboard to try and kill things off first, then layered straw and soil on top of the carboard, to make the new bed. We planted strawberry spinach. If any of them sprouted, we had no way to tell, and they didn’t last long. Instead, the bed was filled with all sorts of other things we didn’t want in it.

So today, I took my nice, new garden fork to it, broke it up and pulled out as many roots and rhizomes as I could find. I then scrounged in the garage and found a couple of pieces of panelling, which I placed on top of the space between the two beds, for something to stand on, and also to smother out more of those flowers!

The little stumps are something we’re going to need to get rid of, too.

I’m not sure what we’ll be planting here. Maybe some squash or gourds, which can be heavily mulched and has large leaves to further shade and kill off anything we don’t want to be growing here.

That was it for outside garden prep. I also adjusted some things in the sun room.

The bright LED shop light that had been used on the inside of the plant shelf got rigged to light the new growing platform over the swing bench. This may be a “sun” room, but it’s not a greenhouse, and this far back from the window doesn’t get much direct sunlight at all.

Also, I’m happy to say that it looks like the two little peppers I thinned out of the other pots have perked up and may actually survive!

Once these were all taken care of, I started to dismantle the broken canopy tent frame. I could only do part of it, because I only brought a Phillip’s screwdriver with me, and the rest of them need a hex tip. Which I have, but I’ll continue it another time.

I still can’t get that one leg out of the soil. I can move it around, and the ground is thawed out for at least a couple of feed, but I just can’t pull it out. We’ll have to dig it out! The amount of force from that falling piece of tree must have been amazing to push that leg, with the flat plate on the bottom, through frozen ground must have been something else! So glad it didn’t land on the BBQ, or it would have been destroyed!

While working on the frame, I noticed the window in the back of the storage house had its cover knocked off, so I went over to put it back. Before I did, though, I could see it was wet under there, so I put my phone on flash, stuck it through the window and took some blind shots.

Oh, dear.

With how the water had formed a moat around the storage house, not coming up to the house itself, I thought it might have been pretty dry. Talk about wrong! It’s a lake under there! The kitties have lost their largest shelter.

This is also the brightest I’ve ever seen it under there. I’m not usually there and taking pictures, this time of day!

Well, no surprise that the entire storage house has been slowly sinking if it gets like this during wet years!

In the 14 day forecast, there are a couple of days where we are expecting light showers, but beyond that, we’ve got all warm and sunny, or mostly sunny, days for a while. That is going to be a huge help in giving the soil a chance to absorb more water, and the high water levels to drop or drain away. That means more chances to prepare garden beds for planting!

I’m having so much fun right now… 😀

The Re-Farmer

This morning’s rounds

There have not been a lot of cats around lately, when I first come out!

I did see others as I went out and about, but nowhere near as many as usual. I think they are enjoying the lack of snow and drying ground, and heading out further afield.

There is a tabby that hangs out with Junk Pile and her kittens, snuggling so close together, I’ve found myself trying to see if there’s a second litter in there, and they’re sharing the parenting. It’s really hard to see in there; the windows are dirty on the inside, and we’re not going to lift the roof to clean them right now, or Junk Pile will move her kittens somewhere else.

I saw The Distinguished Guest walking around. I noticed him limping a while back, but now he’s not putting any weight on that leg at all, but hopping around three-legged. We won’t let me near him, so I can’t check it. Usually, if he starts eating in the kibble house, I can at least pet him, but he didn’t go for the food at all.

The snow is pretty much completely clear in front of the sign cam, other than what’s in the ditches. This spot here is where I spread the wildflower seeds. I am a bit concerned that the gravel and clay from the road that ended up over here will prevent them from germinating. That puddle is there because road dust pushed over with the snow had enough clay in it to form a poll that isn’t draining as it would if it were on just soil.

I broadcast the seeds quite widely, though, so I hope at least some of them will make it!

I did NOT do the walking to check on the flooded out areas. The water continues to recede, and we’re just waiting for the repair crews to get to them. I’ve been walking 3-4 miles total, every morning, for about a week now, and as much as I love the walking, my broken old body is telling me I need to take a break.

I might even listen to it.

Or I might do the walking later in the day. 😉

We’ll see!

The snow cleared around the yard enough that I could start picking up some of the larger branches. The smaller ones will wait until things dry up more, and we can go around with the wagon or wheel barrow.

I was also able to finally clear the broken canopy tent frame away from the BBQ and picnic table. I was able to collect the tent pegs, too, and the new BBQ cover is now properly pegged to the ground.

I still had to deal with this, though.

I was able to pull the leg part way out of the ground.

If you look at where the leg goes from dry to wet, that’s how much of the leg the fallen piece of tree pushed into the ground.

There’s still the base of the leg, which has a flat plate where tent pegs can be used to secure it. It was difficult to work with, because the rest of the canopy frame is still attached to it. I noticed the screws were standard Phillip’s head, so I got a screwdriver and was able to separate it from the rest of the frame. Unfortunately, while trying to wrestle it out of the ground, the leg started to bend. !! I didn’t want to break it off completely, and then have to fight with a much shorter piece, so I left it for now.

Once I realized how easily the frame can be taken apart, without the need for proprietary tools, I got pretty excited. We can take the whole thing apart and salvage the unbroken pieces. I’ve been needing stronger materials to use as supports in the garden. The unbroken pieces will work perfectly. And you can never have enough screws and bolts!

So that’s going to be a task for later today. Dismantling the frame, and seeing how much of it can be salvages. 🙂

It’s going to be a good day for working outside. We’re already at 16C/61F, and are expected to reach 20C/68F this afternoon.

There is a lot of work outside that we can finally get started on! I’m almost giddy with looking forward to it!

Okay, yeah, it’s still mucky out there, but I can still get things done! 😀

The Re-Farmer

My laundry is cursed

Okay, I’m done. Just done.

Can anything else go wrong?

Don’t answer that…

I’ve just spent the last several hours fighting with a single load of laundry. The laundry I tried to do last night that ended up flooding the entryway.

Today, the first thing I did was remove the clothing that was still in the water, wringing it out as best I could, and putting it back in the laundry basket. While I was doing that, I realized…

I was seeing… daylight?

Check out how low that is. The top of the basin is usually just under the top of the washer. It was about 3 inches lower. There is a window in the wall behind the washer, with sunlight shining through some openings in the back of the machine, and I was seeing it only because it was so low.

Once the clothes were out, I used the new syphon pump to drain the water into a bucket. The breaking main door was opened and left open, to put as little stress on the hinges as possible.

I had to fight off cats, every time I came in and out. They were so excited to be able to see through the storm door, and sniff at the slightly open window!

Once as much water was removed from the basin as the pump could get, I left it be, hoping that without the weight of the water and clothes, it would lift itself up again.

While giving it time to do that, I dumped the basket of laundry into the tub. It had already been washed and needed to be rinsed, so I added water and stomped on it with my feet, like I was stomping grapes, to rinse it out. When the old washing machine broke, that was how we did our laundry until we could replace it.

The down side of doing laundry that way is, it’s hard to squeeze out the water. Which makes it much more work for the dryer. I did use one of the arm bars to twist as much water out as I could, but decided to take advantage of the sunny and warmer day, and hang them on the clothes line.

Before I did, though, I checked on the washing machine.

That was encouraging. The basin was almost at the top again.

I left it be to head outside and wipe down the clothes line – it hasn’t been used in a long time – while a daughter lugged the laundry basket out for me. While hanging the clothes, I made extra sure to pin them on well because, if they fell off, they’d fall right into mud, snow, water or even deer droppings, depending on where they were.

I did notice that we need to replace the clothes line. It’s a plastic coated wire line, and it’s so old, the plastic was cracking all over. I don’t want to get rust on the clothes.

One of the handy things we got were a couple of S clips. Our clothes line is on pulleys, so we can just stand on the laundry platform and move the clothes on the line, rather than having to drag a basket across the yard. With the weight of the clothes, it starts to sag, but S clips placed strategically between the clothes, holds the top and bottom together and reduces the sag. I had just put on the second S clip and was getting hear the bottom of the basket when…

… the clothesline snapped.

Almost all my laundry, now lying in the mud.

*sigh*

Well, we had to test the washing machine out at some point.

After a daughter and I picked up the laundry and brought it in, I decided to do a test run with half a load. I made sure the sump pump hose was set up out the window before even plugging the machine back in.

The cats were wild with curiosity.

Finally, it was time to plug it in and…

Nothing happened.

So far, so good.

I put in the half load of clothing, added the detergent, and finally hit the power button.

It turned on, and did nothing else.

Still, so far so good!

I started setting the machine for a normal load. All the buttons worked, and the timer showed 63 minutes, just as it should. I started the load, and it was soon filling with water.

I wasn’t sure it was so far so good, though. Didn’t it usually take longer before it started filling? The machine does a bit of a jig with the basin as part of its automated load size system. We don’t normally do small loads of laundry, so I’m not sure. Plus, there had still been some water at the bottom. Maybe that threw it off.

Being paranoid, I set up the household step ladder across from the machine and sat there on my phone, supervising it.

As the machine filled, the timer counted down.

It kept filling.

And filling.

And filling.

That was a small load. It should have stopped earlier.

Then I realized the countdown on the timer was at 55 minutes – and it wasn’t changing.

I do appreciate that the washing machine has a window in its lid. I kept watching the water level slowly rising. The basin did start to agitate a bit, but kept stopping, while the water kept going.

Finally I paused it, checked the load and restarted it.

It kept filling.

The timer stayed at 55 minutes.

About this time, my other daughter came down to see how my cursed load of laundry was doing, and I told her what was happening. When the machine still wouldn’t stop filling, and the level was just way too high, I finally shut it off. Clearly, there was something wrong with the machine.

I got my daughter to bring me the syphon pump while I removed the machine’s drain hose from the sump pump hose that was running out the window. The hose from the syphon pump fit into the sump pump hose, nice and snug – I could pump straight outside, instead of hauling buckets!

The cats REALLY wanted to check things out!

I started to pump, but there wasn’t enough of a seal and water started to leak from the join, so I went to get some electric tape to seal it.

I had just gotten the tape from another room, when I started to hear splashing sounds.

I came running to find water shooting out of the washing machine’s drainage hose. The machine had turned itself on and was draining!

This time, I had the presence of mind to shove the end into the washing machine. The little step ladder was still there, so I was able to climb up and reach the plug while staying dry.

Now that I think about it, the machine turning itself on to drain the basin may be a failsafe system, to make sure the basin wasn’t left with heavy water in it for too long. Which would be a good thing, if we actually had somewhere for it to drain, but with the pipe clogged, we don’t, and the only way to stop it is to unplug it!

My younger daughter, sweetheart that she is, went running for the mop and bucket as soon as she heard the splashing. We got the water cleaned up as best we could, then she dried off the hose connections so they could be taped together. Meanwhile, I started taking the clothes out – again! – squeezing as much water out them as I could, and putting them back in the basket, while my daughter started pumping water out.

We got that done, and then I took the laundry into the bath tub again, then headed outside, while my daughter used the syphon hose to empty out most of the mop bucket, so it would be easier to dump outside.

That pump and hose system through the door works really well.

While outside, I gathered up the broken clothes line. That took a while. It’s a long line! My daughter came to join me, and when we went into the sun room to put the line away until we had time to grab some tools and remove the line tightener, which is still good, we talked about how I want to set things up in the sun room to make a surface for plants above the swing bench.

Not something we’re going to do today.

Then we headed in, and I was talking about having to still do my laundry with my feet when my daughter started taking off her shoes by the tub.

She said I was having a bad enough day, so she would do it for me.

What a sweetheart!

So that’s done and, since no amount of manual squeezing matched the spin cycle of a machine, the load is being dried in two batches, so as not the overwork the dryer.

We went from not being able to do laundry because of a clogged drain, to now having a broken washing machine.

I hope it’s still under warranty. I’m not sure something like this would be covered, though.

As for the drain…

When I had the chance, I got my daughter to stand near the laundry and listen, while I ran both taps in the kitchen on full. She heard no gurgling and no sounds of water backing up the pipe.

Could we have finally cleared the clog?

I sure hope so. I’d really like something to go right!

Actually, something did go right. Wanting to cheer myself up, my daughter and I went to check on the seedlings in the big aquarium greenhouse. There are more sprooots! More Lady Godive and Kakai hulless pumpkins have sprouted, and I spotted a Styrian seedling just breaking ground. We also have more of the cantaloupe type melons! We have an almost 100% germination rate on those! There is only one out of 8 pots of Halona melons that hasn’t germinated – and those are seeds from last year’s garden, so they’re more than a year old. One of the grocery store melons, which has 4 pots, had only one seed germinated, but now the rest of them are up, too.

That did a great job in cheering us both up. 🙂

Tomorrow, I want to call the plumber and, now that the washing machine is doing crazy things, call the appliance guy that came out to do warranty work on it before. I want to describe to him what happened, before trying to find the info for the company about possible warranty work.

What a day.

My other daughter commented on how all this was somehow to “make up” for our not being flooded outside, like so many others are!

It could most definitely be worse.

The Re-Farmer

Seriously?

Check out this screencap from my phone’s weather app.

Yeah. They’re predicting another 5-10cm/2-4in of snow in a couple of days. If I tap to check the “snowfall probability”, though, is says 1-2 cm, which is less than an inch.

My desktop weather app says Wednesday will be 3C/37F, with 2-4cm of snow, which is less than 2 inches.

Meanwhile, I’ve read that there is a possibility of another Colorado Low developing later in the month.

Seriously????

I’m trying to stay positive here. Appreciating the moisture and all, but could it please start coming as rain now, instead of sow? I mean, we’re still supposed to have highs above freezing, so you’d think we’d be getting rain, but apparently not. :-/

Anyhow.

While I was heating up water for the outside cats, I spotted some activity out the kitchen window.

Cheeky buggers! 😀

Actually, they’re using the paths we’ve dug out, since all the other ones have been left snowed in.

I think I spotted 11 cats outside this morning. I’m not sure how many are at the kibble tray on the ground.

Things got weird with Ghost Baby, though. As I was pouring out the kibble, she actually ran right up to me, then backed off an hissed… then ran up, then hissed, then ran up, then hissed… Very odd. Especially having her run up close enough to rub against my leg! As I went around to put kibble on the tray on the ground, she came up and went for the tray, then hissed at me, then went for the tray again.

While I was putting seeds out in the feeding station, I could hear the yowling of cats. I came around to see what was going on, and pretty much all the cats had run off – except Ghost Baby. As I came closer, she went around the side of the kibble house, so I checked on her. I held my hand out to her and she actually touched my finger with her nose – which had a spot of blood on it! – and hissed again.

We were almost out of deer feed and low on kibble, so I decided to make a quick run into town. After popping inside for a bit, I came back out to discover 2 skunks in the kibble house – and Ghost Baby in the space between the kibble house and the cat house, screaming at them! The skunks saw me and tried to run away, but Ghost Baby was in the way, and even batted at them. The poor skunks where in a pickle!

No surprise when Ghost Baby got sprayed. The skunks got by here, but I could see she had a big, yellow splash right across her chest.

It doesn’t seem to be bothering her. She wanted that kibble!

The outside cats typically have their kittens around the end of April or beginning of May. It is very possible that Ghost Baby is due to have hers within a couple of weeks, which may explain her behaviour.

Rosencrantz, Broccoli and at least one other cat – possibly Junk Pile – are looking very, very round, too.

There are going to be way too many kittens this year – though there is always the question of how many will survive long enough for us to ever see them. Beep Beep and Butterscotch always stuck close to home, even when we didn’t manage to catch them to have their kittens in either the sun room or our basement. The other cats won’t have their kittens in the cat shelter – it’s far to busy in there and used by too many cats. We’ll just have to see how many there are, probably around June.

I think Butterscotch will be very happy to NOT be pregnant this year!

Meanwhile, Potato Beetle is still being kept in the sun room, though he did make his escape while my daughter tried to get the loaded wagon through the sun room door while I carried the feed sack. We left him be while things got brought inside, then the girls put things away while I refilled the bins of kibble and feed. By the time I got outside again, though, I couldn’t see Potato Beetle. It took me a while, but I finally spotted him, rolling luxuriously in the snow, then going around marking his territory on some trees. 😀 He finally came over for cuddles, and I was able to get him back in the sun room.

He still wants out.

Though he is still favouring his front left leg, he does seem to be better, and able to put more weight on it. Hopefully, it’s just a minor injury. We’ll find out when we get him to the vet on Wednesday evening (unless we get a call due to a cancellation).

Potato Beetle may be wanting out, but he’s also REALLY loving it when we visit him in the sun room. This cat loves his cuddles!

Now, if he could just learn how to use that litter box. This morning, I discovered he somehow managed to use a tall bucket to leave a “present” for me, without knocking it over. It’s going to be pretty unpleasant when it’s time to clean out the sun room, and we pull the swing bench out, because I’m pretty sure it’s behind there that he’s been making a mess. Until it’s warm and dry enough outside that we can empty the sun room and clean it out, however, we’re just going to have to put up with the smells.

*sigh*

At least it’s warm enough that we can open up the inner door to outside. The outer door lets in more sunlight, so it still stays pretty warm, but the window is open a few inches, so there’s at least a bit of air circulation.

Whether or not we’re getting another Colorado Low or now, we’re going to have to start using that sun room as a greenhouse for more seedlings, and today was the day for that.

Which will get a post of its own. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Collapsed

I hoped it would hold out a bit longer, but it finally happened.

An old shed roof collapsed.

I spotted it when I headed outside to meet the pharmacy delivery driver.

Just look at all that snow!

The shed was mostly empty, with a few odds and ends in it. There were a couple of things I’d hoped to tuck away somewhere else before the roof came down. There’s a package of shingles that are useable, for example, and an antique plow I’d hoped to save. It might actually still be okay, as it was tucked pretty far into a corner.

When I showed the pictures to one of my daughters, her reaction was, “so that’s what that crunching noise was!” She’d thought it was from a vehicle and had gone outside to see if there had been an accident or something, but didn’t think to look at the shed.

This shed was among the things we wanted to actually get rid of, but I was thinking along the lines of after a new fence was built, from the barn to the road, so we could get rid of the fencing towards the driveway. The renter was talking about putting in new fences (part of the agreement in renting the property from my family is that he would be responsible for the fences) and I’d suggested the new fence line. If he does build new fences this year, and cuts through the old hay yard, that’s where we would eventually be planting more shelterbelt trees.

This past summer, I’d made a point of examining the shed from the inside, to see if it was worth trying to save. It wasn’t. The roof structure really didn’t have a lot of support, and there were already holes in it.

Now that the roof has finally collapsed, I want to dismantle the shed and salvage as much material as we can. The 2×4’s in the joists should still be useable, and I think a lot of the boards forming the walls should still be pretty sound. In fact, there might be enough material to salvage out of this that we can build a chicken coop. I’d hoped to be set up for chickens this spring, but we just don’t have the materials to build shelters for them. I can’t even figure out where we could put a cat proof brooder for any chicks we get.

I want to have a chicken tractor for use in the summer, so we can integrate chickens into our garden plans, but we would also need a permanent structure sturdy and warm enough for them to survive our winters. The old log summer kitchen my parents used as a chicken coop is not useable. I do want to replace the corrugated tin pieces that have come off, due to a tree being allowed to grow against it, and its branches tearing away at the roof. It’s the only log building that is still structurally sound, but it won’t be for long if we don’t patch up the roof. I would love to be able to clean out and repair it, but that’s a huge job we won’t be able to start for quite a while.

I think I can reasonably expect to salvage enough material from this shed to build a small coop – large enough for the dozen or so chickens that would be suitable for our egg laying needs – but not enough to also build a chicken tractor. However, one of the things I want to do is build mini-coops for our high raised beds that will allow us to set up a few chickens on a raised bed after it’s been harvested, to do their magic and leave their fertilizer for the next season. We’ll be making all our raised beds the same size, so that any covers we make will fit on any of them, whether a bed needs to have a plastic cover to act as a cold frame or protect from frost, a screen to keep the insects out, mesh to keep the critters out, or a mini-portable coop to keep chickens in!

So the roof collapsing on this shed will actually made it easier and safer to take it down, and we’ll be able to salvage materials out of it sooner than expected.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: preparing to start seeds indoors

Last year, we converted two unused aquariums into greenhouses, where we hoped to protect our seed starts from the cats.

It mostly succeeded.

Today, I prepped the tanks for this year’s seeds.

The small tank – a 20 gallon tank – was a real problem with the cats last year.

Even when we pur the original hard cover back on at the end of the season, using the space inside to store the light, etc., the cats still got into it!

The foil around the back and sides were to provide reflective light for the seedlings. As you can see, the cats have torn up the foil, and even left scratches in the rigid insulation at the back!

Last year, we had tried using the lid that came with the tank at first, but the cats would reach through the opening for the water filter in the back, even if it meant fighting past whatever we put to block the opening. They managed to reach in and pull up the seed trays, anyhow. Having to block everything meant no air circulation, so what the cats didn’t destroy, mold did it’s damage. I finally rigged a window screen and that worked, though it was far too late to save the onions we’d tried to start in there at the time.

This tank will be for onions again. After seeing that onion seeds can be planted very close together, and they don’t really get transplant shock, I’m hoping to be able to get all 5 varieties of onions we have in hear.

The problem is the size and shape of the tank is too small to fit any of the commercial seed starting trays we’ve been using. I want to be able to water the planting trays from below, which meant having to find something to use as a tray for the water.

I decided to try aluminum oven lines. They are pliable enough to bend to size, and strong enough that I could fold corners without it tearing. It’s not deep, but it doesn’t need to be.

There’s still quite a bit of space left. If needed, I can fold up another tray and overlap them. I’ll just have to make sure they are attached to each other with a water tight seal. Or we can just use the doubled Red Solo cups again, and not need to have a tray under them at all.

Then the screen window was brought back into action as a cover. A pair of 5 pound hand weights get added to the back, in case a cat walks onto the overhang in front. The metal screen is strong enough to hold their weights. The heavier cats don’t try to go up there, just the tiny ones, so that has worked out. If necessary, we have more weight we can put on it. At some point, I want to build a screened cover to fit, but that’s not an urgent thing.

Since we can’t change the height of the light fixture, the egg cartons are being used to bring the seedling trays closer to the light, and can be taken out to lower the base as needed.

One thing we found last year is that this room is pretty cold, which is why we added the insulation around the back and sides. It was still difficult to keep it warm enough for the squash and gourds we had in there. Onions are a cool weather crop, so they should be fine in here, as far as the temperature goes.

Then there was the big tank to do.

I had to take out the biggest pot with an aloe vera in it to make space for the boxes that are being used to raise the seedling tray closer to the light. Previously, the boxes were under that sheet of insulation at the base to create a raised floor, but with the plants still in there, we can’t do that this time.

This is where we will be starting the luffa, and probably a few other gourds, at the same time as the onions. They will need the heat mat we got for under the seed trays, which is why they have to go in this tank. The mat won’t fit in the small tank. Right now, the mat is under all the trays and pots, so the weight can flatten it out a bit. There’s just enough room left to hold the curing Tennessee Dancing gourds.

At some point, we’re going to have to take the other aloe vera and my daughter’s orchids out. We’ll need the space for the tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, which are the next earliest seeds we need to start. After that, we will need space for the winter and summer squash. Hopefully, by the time they need to be started, we can start moving the onions into the sun room. The orchids (you can see one has started to bloom again!) are here because it was too cold for them to hang at the window in winter. The aloe is there to keep the cats from digging in the pots.

Which happened with the one pot I did take out, while I was setting things up in here! I caught Nicco, inside the barriers I put around the aloe vera. She’s so long and skinny, she snaked her way through the gaps! The little beast!

We had another, larger pot with an aloe vera in it in. It had been okay for months but, a few days ago, we came out to find the pot all dug up, and the only remains of the plant in it were a couple of leaf tips. We never found the rest of the aloe, and have no idea what happened to it! I’m sure we’ll find it, desiccated, under the couch or in a corner somewhere, months from now. 😀

As you can imagine, I’m not too keen on taking the plants out of the tank. They’re doing very well in there! But we won’t have a choice.

We have many things we need to start indoors, but a lot of them will have only a few seeds per packet used. Particularly with the squash and gourds. For the tomatoes, the paste tomatoes are the only ones we will be planting a lot of, since those are determinates being grown specifically for canning. The others are indeterminates and will be more for fresh eating, so we won’t need more than a few plants of each. We have enough varieties that, in the end, there should still be quite a few to transplant in the spring.

The other major thing we will need to start indoors will be the kulli corn, but those won’t need to be started until about the middle of May, at which point the sun room will be warm enough to use.

We are expanding the garden a lot this year, and will be expanding it more again, next year. I expect to be expanding it every year for quite some time. Which means that we will be needing lots of room to start seeds indoors every year. Until we are at a point when we can get a greenhouse or polytunnel, a goal of mine is to set up a corner in the sun room for starting seeds. We’d need grow lights, so that we wouldn’t have to constantly turn the trays for even sunlight, and we would need a heater sufficient to keep the room – or at least that corner – warm enough for germination. Or use more heat mats, but there is no outlet in that room. We are using an outlet in the old kitchen, with an extension cord running through a window to a power bar, right now. So warming the room would be more practical than using heat mats.

It’s funny. As we work on what we are doing this year, my mind is already on what will need to be done next year.

And the year after.

And the year after that…

As we work on things, we get a better idea of what plans we have will work, what needs to be modified, what needs to be re-priorities, or dropped entirely.

I don’t think we’ll ever reach the end of that process. Which is good, because figuring it all out is a bit part of the fun!

The Re-Farmer