More progress on the old kitchen garden

We are having a nice day today, before temperatures drop quite a bit tomorrow, so I wanted to get some more done on the old kitchen garden. We’ll expected to have only one cold day before it warms up again, so we should still be okay for getting things done.

With the new raised bed done, it was time to work on the south edge of the old kitchen garden.

This is where my daughter has planted her irises, and at the far right is where her daffodils are. The bulbs were planted deeply, so that they would better survive our winters, but it meant I could only dig around the top few inches. Which is where most of the roots and rhizomes are, so that worked out.

We had a couple of boards on the ground to mark where the outer edge was, though they were mostly covered by grass and weeds. After moving those out, I used where they were as my guide for were to work while clearing things. Once I’d weeded as much as I could, I wanted to see what I could do about the stepping stones and the paths we’d be leaving open in the wall it will be edges with. I found one more paving stone, like we’ve got as stepping stones under the kitty’s butt. I also tried to find matching, unbroken bricks for the gap in the wall.

The other stepping stones are actual stones. After digging around the rock pile near my late father’s car, I found a couple that had split and were nice and flat.

If you look just above the handle of my digging tool, you’ll see a bit of green. That is one of the irises that, for some reason, it still green. I wanted to make sure it was protected when we use the stepping stones.

The stones and bricks were laid down, then I dug a shallow trench along the outer edge. I was able to fit the shortest log left over from before between the concrete block retaining wall and the bricks, without having to shift the bricks much at all. The longest log from the pile just happened to be the perfect length to fit between the two pairs of bricks, with no adjustments! The last log I added didn’t need to reach all the way to the laundry platform, since that area is sheltered by the mock orange tree you can see the leaves and branches of in the bottom corner. I just hope I didn’t cover that single Egyptian Walking Onion that’s somewhere in there. That thing has managed to survive for many years. I’d hate to be the one that finally killed it!

The logs are just there as temporary place holders. My daughter wants to use rocks to create more of a wall along the edge. Once the logs and stepping stones were in place, I spread the rest of the sifted soil on the tarp all along the edge, and the logs will help keep the soil in place.

This is the first year we were able to protect that onion enough for it to grow bulbils. You can see they’re sprouting, but no roots had started to form, so I moved it out. Then I found another onions while I was weeding.

I figured, what the heck. I may as well plant them!

I planted them along the raised bed, covered them with a grass clipping mulch (and put some around that one iris by the stepping stones), then added sticks at either end to mark it. I knew for sure that there wasn’t anything else planted there. I figure they will be sheltered by the log wall, and still get full sunlight, too. If they survive the winter, we might have more walking onions next year!

That done, I gave everything a thorough watering, including washing the soil off the bricks, stepping stones and the log edge.

After that, it was just a matter of clean up. The pile of roots and weeds went to the burn barrel.

The area is now done. The next area I need to work on is the L shaped bed around the double lilac. I’ve got lettuce I left to go to seed in there and that’s it. With the weather we’ve been having, though, I’m not sure we’ll be getting any seed out of them this year. We shall see.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: our “second bathroom”, inside and out

I’m a sucker for punishment.

The plan was to head over to the outhouse, quickly do a second coat of paint until we ran out, then get back to working on the bread baking.

Instead, I kept adding more things to do, and by the time I got inside, I had to get my daughter to continue the bread baking, as I was no longer physically able to do it. Which is what she is working on now, as I write this blog post!

While looking for something else entirely, I found a pair of wooden shelf supports and instantly realized that they could be painted and used to put a shelf in the outhouse. So when I headed out to do the second coat of paint, I also poked around the barn and a shed to find a thin board wide enough for the supports. It was about six feet long, though, so I basically held it up to the outhouse door from the outside, and eyeballed where to cut it to fit along the back of the outhouse. It ended up being just over half the length of the board, so I figured if I was off with the longer one, I could still use the slightly shorter one.

It ended up being just a hair too wide to fit between the corner posts. A few swipes with a micro plan and some sand paper was enough to get it to fit perfectly!

That done, I sanded the rough edges, then scrubbed and hosed it down before setting it aside to dry. Then I added a second coat of paint, just to the seat box inside, before painting the shelf supports.

I’m thinking I might paint the rest of the board, too. If we get more shelf supports, we can add it onto one of the side walls.

It took a while for the washed shelf board to dry, so I decided to give the mirrored shelf a scrub down, too, then once that was dry, I hung it back up inside the outhouse.

Rolando Moon decided she absolutely had to be on top of where I was putting the tools and screws! The violent beast went from demanding I pet her, to attacking the hand that was petting here, making me bleed! I did manage to get the screws with washers out from under her, though.

I just wanted the washers, though. There were just two, for the top screw holes, which are slightly wider than the bottom ones. I used new screws to hang the mirror back up. After washing the blood off the new screws and washer, from the wound Rolando Moon gave me!

Previously, it had been hung up right against the centre joist, but I chose to centre it between the corner and the joist, instead.

Then, I just had to do it…

I just had to put the little mermaid I found while I first emptied and cleaned out the outhouse, inside the cabinet.

She lives here now.

😀

Once we’ve picked one up, the LED battery operated light switch will be mounted directly opposite the mirror.

By the time this was done, the shelf board was dry.

After removing Rolando Moon, I got the one side painted. Tomorrow, I will paint the other side. By then, I should be able to mount the shelf supports, using the boards on the wall to make sure they are level, then attach the shelf board once the paint is dry. Only then will I continue doing the second coat of paint inside, until the can is empty. If I end up not doing the ceiling, or the narrow parts around the door, that’s not going to be a problem. As long as the areas that are most likely to get scrubbed in the future get a second coat, it’s all good.

Since I could no longer work on the inside, I decided to work on the outside, and empty the pit of groundhog gravel.

The wire mesh on the back was held in place by being hooked onto two bent nails, that were nowhere near each other. You can see one at the top right. The other is barely visible, near the bottom left. It didn’t take much to remove the mesh.

There was a second, smaller piece of mesh, partly buried until a thick layer of grass and roots.

*sigh*

That took some doing to move out of the way.

I thought I would be able to remove the two bottom boards by taking off the smaller pieces on the side, then pulling them off. They where, however, thoroughly nailed in place, with old and rusted nails that were not about to come out. So, I instead dug out my jig saw and used it to cut a piece off the bottom.

As you can see, it’s solid gravel against it! I ended up having to cut a second piece off. I was then able to start shoveling the gravel out, and when I could no longer get the shovel far enough in before the 2×4 across the bottom stopped me, I used a garden hoe to move more gravel closer, then shoveled some more.

I never did reach the … compost… layer. I did hit a lot of rocks, though! I emptied it as best as I could, without removing the more recent… deposits.

Then it was time to cover the hole back up.

I put the two pieces of siding back, then screwed the bottom one to the 2×4 behind it. The next time we need to get under there, we can just remove the screws and the boards will easily pop out again.

I then folded the smaller piece of wire mesh to fit the opening. I found a scrap piece of board with screw holes already in it, so I used that to fasten the mesh in place. The wire is folded at the bottom and weighted down with rocks. Critters can still get in if they really wanted to, but this is temporary. When we get to painting the outside, we’ll make things more permanent, perhaps replacing the cut boards with a hinged flap that can be latched to keep the critters out. Who knows.

I have no idea why that other large piece of wire mesh was used to cover almost the entire back of the outhouse. It really served no purpose, since only the gap at the bottom needed to be covered. Even the smaller one on the bottom couldn’t keep the critters out.

I was able to fill the wheelbarrow with clean groundhog gravel! If there was any chance the shovel full I pulled out wasn’t clean, it went onto the nearby cat litter compost pile, instead.

The clean gravel was put to good use.

It was enough to make a thin layer on top of the boards in the path between the new low raised bed boxes. The bigger rocks went up against one of the boxes, where there is a larger gap, then it all got spread out and hosed down, so that the finer particles would wash into the gaps between the boards below. It seems to be more clay than sand and gravel, though. We will still need to add more, but this is a good start.

And that was it for today!

Deciding to include a shelf added at least an extra day to finishing the inside, but I think it will be worth it. I’m more happy about getting the pit clean up over and done with for now!

The Re-Farmer

Low raised bed: path patch

My darling daughter was able to do a patch job last night, beside the low raised bed I finished yesterday.

That pile of salvaged boards is coming in very handy! We are getting it down to a point where we are starting to reach wood that isn’t rotted out or weather damaged, too. We might actually be able to start using some of it to build things!

There is a much smaller gap on the other side of the box. That one just got a bunch of rocks that had been pulled out of the soil.

I look forward to when we can top the paths with gravel.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: old kitchen garden, part two

Part One here.

After the girls finished planting the Strawberry Spinach, they went ahead and spaced out the concrete blocks to they would run from end to end across the garden. The gaps in between were fairly large, so they had the idea of filling them with bricks and brought a bunch over.

I liked the idea, so I ran with it. With a bit of adjustment on some blocks, I could fit three bricks in between each block. Then, because we have them, I used only red and white bricks, alternating with 2 red and 1 white, them 1 red and 2 white. Soil needed to be added under them, so they would be the same height (more or less) as the blocks.

That done, I finished filling the space against the wall with larger rocks. I ran out, so I took the wagon to various spots around the old garden, where rocks had been pulled out and left against trees or posts, etc. Once those were in, small rocks were added. When I ran out of those, I just walked around the garden with the wagon, picking them as I went along, and had more than I needed in no time at all. The hard part was not picking too many bigger rocks, because I had nowhere to put them.

Once that was done, I filled gaps between the bricks with soil, and pushed more soil up against the blocks and bricks, then used a hose to clean them off. This is how it looked when it was done.

The path is uneven and lumpy, but it serves its purpose!

Of course, the cats were already using the dirt as litter. *sigh*

We haven’t even finished clearing that soil of roots, and it’s sitting on soil that wasn’t loosened. The next step will be to spread the piles of soil out, taking out as many roots as we can. At least we got what I think are the last of the big roots out. They were all under where the blocks and rocks are, and spreading away from the house, so they were getting smaller as they got further out. The ground slopes slightly downward from the house, which is why we added the retaining wall. We’ll be building up more soil at the wall, to level things off a bit, so shifting this soil downwards will just help with that.

This is what we cleared out so far. They will go into the burn barrel, since much of this is from invasive plants. We’re under a fire ban, but burn barrels should still be okay. I’ll have to check, first.

There will be another path running through roughly the center of the garden, towards the retaining wall. We have more of those concrete blocks. There were two stacks, but I found more, half buried under grass and weeds. I think we have at least 5 more of them out there. Maybe more. Hard to say what we’ll find once we start moving things!

Then we can start adding new garden soil, and finally start planting in some sections. There are flowers on the north side of the garden that I want to dig up and split, but I’m not sure where I want to put them yet. Then there are those flowers my mother now wants me to keep (I checked before I started laying cardboard down that first summer, and she’d told me there was nothing she wanted to keep. The next summer, she changed her mind!). In the photos, you can easily see them, as they’re the only green in there right now. They are invasive, but pretty, so I want to transplant some into a contained space, then get rid of the rest to free up garden space. Or maybe I’ll find someplace to plant them as a ground cover. We’ll see.

Long term, this will be our kitchen garden, and will have a combination of herbs and quick growing vegetables and greens, nice and handy for quick picking as needed. It will be a challenge, with the two big ornamental apple trees, the double lilac, the honeysuckle, and the roses. There’s a rose that was struggling, but actually bloomed last year, after we pruned the tree above it. It’s a lovely pink rose – and it got broken! I think by a deer. I’d like to transplant it somewhere where it can get full sun. The white roses are lovely, but remarkably invasive. Then there are those vines that keep making their way through the mulch and spreading!

We’ll work it out slowly, over the next few years. For now, the poppies will go in the corner near the new path, and the lettuces will go along the west end, where they will be lightly shaded by the trees for much of the day. We’ll see what else we can fit in, if needed.

For now, I’m really wishing we had a hot tub. Or one of those tubs for old people, with a door and a seat. I could really use a hot soak, but if I try to take a bath, I am not sure I’d be able to get up again without help. Being broken sucks! 😀 I’ll just have to borrow my husband’s bath chair and take a not shower, instead.

Getting a hot tub really would be a good idea. It would be very therapeutic for my husband’s back, too! Not that we have anywhere to put one right now. I’m sure we could figure it out, though!

All in good time. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: old kitchen garden, part one

A change in plans.

Today, I wanted to get started on the old kitchen garden, where we intend to plant the poppies.

This is how it looked at the start.

The hose is from the sump pump in the old basement.

It has not turned on in ages. It’s simply been too dry.

You can see a path has started to form, a couple of feet from the wall. This is mostly from the cats crossing the garden, though we sometimes walk through there, too. The plan was to add new soil against the wall, to plant the poppies, and put in a stepping stone sort of path where one naturally formed. We found some concrete blocks out near the barn that we decided to use for the paths.

But first, it needed to be cleared.

Our first summer here, we did a major clean up of this old garden, removing a fence, cleaning it out as best we could, laying down cardboard, then covering it with straw, grass clippings, kitchen waste, and any soil from various places that we could get it. You can read about the clean up we did here, here, here and here. Yeah. It took a while! (all links will open in new tabs)

My mother had flowers growing here, and quite a few of them made their way through the layers. So did the crab grass and a vine we’ve been fighting continually since moving here. So the first thing I had to do was rake away the mulch, down to what was left of the cardboard layer. You can see lots of roots that were uncovered!!

Most of the biggest ones were from that invasive vine. It used to cover the entire wall until my brother and his wife pulled it down while painting the house, the summer before we arrived. They were causing damage, so we don’t want them growing back.

Speaking of damage, that crack is in the foundation under the old kitchen, which was tacked on to the log cabin portion of the house at some point. There’s a crawl space under there.

My brother told me about fixing the broken attic window above the old kitchen. It never occurred to me that the glass would still be on the ground! We’d laid cardboard over it, and never new it!

Finding glass from a broken window, I can understand. But this?

Why a spoon?

At this point, I was breaking up the soil with the fork and pulling out lots of roots.

Lots of roots.

So many roots.

Which created a problem I did not expect.

I was pulling roots out from under the old kitchen foundation, and the concrete floor of the sun room. In the process, soil started falling out from underneath.

No wonder the windows in the sun room are cracking as it shifts!!!

This required a change in plans. There was no way I was going to turn this into a garden bed, where watering it might continue to undermine the concrete. I needed to get those roots out, then shore up the sides.

It’s a good thing we have a nice big rock pile over by the power pole. We also had piles of smaller rocks we’d gathered from the garden, though not very many.

Large rocks were placed against the wall, soil put back to fill gaps and support the rocks, smaller rocks are added on top, and the concrete blocks were placed to begin the path.

We brought those blocks over in the wagon, which is rated to 300 pounds. I don’t know how much they weight, but with three blocks, the wagon didn’t want to roll. My daughter pushed while I pulled. After that, I only put in two blocks at a time.

The wagon was used to bring rocks over, too.

After a while, it started to get hard to find smaller rocks. There is decades of detritus that has decomposed on them, with a very strong layer of crab grass rhizomes!

As we worked our way down, still clearing away roots, we got hung up by an old rose bush. It took a while, but I finally got it out!

That is one weird looking root clump!!

My daughter was just coming back from a break (we were very careful not to overdo it; the last thing we need is to injure ourselves!!) as I put it in the wheelbarrow with all the other roots. She was checking it out when she suddenly dropped it in alarm.

This thing had been exposed and wriggled at her!!

I don’t know what this grub is, but considering it was burrowing in the rose roots, I’d say it’s not a beneficial creature to have in the garden. :-/

This is where we stopped for a longer break. Sustenance was needed!

There are enough larger rocks to line the wall. My daughter used some to make a little wall around the power cables that run under the old kitchen. We also found a cable running along the wall to the corner, which is going to be carefully covered with rocks.

There are two more of those blocks in the wagon. They will be spaced out from one end to the other, and the gaps filled with soil and rocks.

As for the poppies, they will now be planted on the other side of the path!

Meanwhile, as I’ve been working on this post, the girls have gone back outside and are planting the Strawberry Spinach. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Fall clean up: I think I went overboard!

When I cleared out the old wood pile from the yard last year, the soil I found below was a very pleasant surprise. Still, there was a whole lot of clean up that needed to be done this spring, before we could plant anything. We were still finding some pretty strange things in there! The biggest challenge was all the tree roots crisscrossing the area.

Now that we’ve had our first vegetables growing in there, it was interesting to see what was coming up along with them! After being buried by a wood pile for decades, there were still seeds and root systems that managed to survive and sprout. There was plantain (the weed, not the banana!), which is not surprising; that stuff can grow anywhere and is very hardy. Clover was more of a surprise, but there was also a lot of some long, delicate green plant that I didn’t recognize at all. I thought it might be a flower of some kind, but it never had any. There were flowers that came up, too, and since they came up where the khol rabi failed, to, I let them bed until today, when they were basically done blooming, anyhow.

All this meant that in digging over the beds, I was basically stopping with every fork full to break up the soil with my hands, so I could pull out as many weeds with their roots as I could.

I also found tree roots I’d missed in the spring!

While fighting with the roots, my feet sinking into the soft, soft soil, I kept thinking about where and how we would plant the garlic. The spaces to walk on, in between the beds of carrots and beets we’d planted, was packed down harder than the rest, of course, and it almost seemed like wasted soil!

Also, I discovered that, like the girls had discovered when planting deep bulbs, it seems even here, there is only about 8 inches of topsoil before I started hitting a lot of rocks.

We’ve got three kinds of garlic coming, which meant three beds. How and were did I want to arrange them?

Then I remembered I still had a 4’x8′ frame from the goat catcher we’d built.

Those are coming in very handy!

I dragged it over, and the area I’d worked on turned out to be almost exactly the size of the frame!

That’s when I started to go a bit crazy.

I started to dig out the soil inside the frame.

Hitting more roots, of course.

By this time, plan had started to form in my mind.

All the stuff I’d added to the compost a little while before?

It ended up in the space I’d shoveled out, along with some damp straw that I raked up from around the old dog houses, where they had been used as insulation around them.

When it came time to return the soil to the space, I kinda went overboard again…

I kept digging.

The vague plan in my mind took into account walking paths, and I didn’t want to be sinking in the soil. The pieces of wood I’d used to walk on weren’t very stabled, but what if…

What if they were laid down on an area that was dug down and leveled to just above the gravel?

So after I used a hoe and rake to even out the mound of soil, I used them to even out the pathway and started laying down boards.

This is how far I got before stopping for supper.

This is where I pause to say how much I appreciate the girls. While I’m outside doing stuff like this – which I consider fun – they’re inside taking care of the cooking and housework – which I loathe.

Then I went back to finish the job, and this is how it looked.

The wood I was using was salvaged from the junk pile in the spring, and some of if was slightly wider. I used the wider ones to make “walls” on either side of the path, then laid down three layers of boards in the middle. This made them a lot more stable to walk on, and also made the path the same thickness as the height of the “walls”. I had to cut a few to size to fill in gaps at the ends, which worked out all right.

This is old wood, some of which was already starting to rot. If I’d had the option, I would have put down gravel or something. These will do the job for now, and perhaps some day we’ll replaced them with flagstones or something.

When the girls came out to see how it looked, I snagged one of them to help me move the frame to the other side of the path.

This is where the second bed will be.

With 3 varieties of garlic, it looks like I’ll have to make three of these. It looks like there is just barely enough space to do that, before reaching the metal ring around the compost, though I could put the third one at a right angle to the others, instead.

I don’t know if I’ll be up to doing three of them! I don’t know how many cloves we’ll get out of a pound of seed garlic, each. If I do only two, I could split one variety between the two beds.

We shall see, after the second one is done.

I made a whole lot more work for myself by doing this, but… I think I like it better!

The Re-Farmer

Clean Up: Maple Grove, garden path

We had some much more pleasant temperatures today, so I headed out to do some work in the maple grove this evening.

After the tree care guy came to give us an estimate, I decided to focus first on clearing the old garden path.  Whether we hire these guys, or the company coming to give a quote on Monday, they will need to bring equipment in to access the trees they will be cutting clear from the power lines.  Good enough reason to start at the old garden path.

This is what it looked like before.

20180617.blocked.path

The deadwood on the ground here is partially cut, and it made up of several trees.  Elm and maple, from the looks of it.

20180523.cleared.lilac

This photo was taken back in May, and you can see where the path is supposed to be in the background.

I also worked my way along the north row of trees, bordering the garden, and heading towards the garden shed.  I started off by using the weed trimmer to take town the tall grass and weeds, so that I could at lease see the branches and trunks.

Then I started dragging stuff out.  This photo is of JUST the deadwood I pulled out of the grass.

20180630.cleanup.maplegrove.gardenpath.deadwoodpile

Almost all of this is just from that blocked garden path!  Even after this, I kept finding more, as I walked back and forth and I would step on something.  I’d then go to pick up what I expected to be a small branch, often finding myself pulling out something 6-7 feet long, and completely buried in grass and leaves!

After I cleaned out the stuff already on the ground, I started taking out the dead spruces on either side of the path, and cut back the other trees that I had pulled the deadwood out of.  They were mostly dead, already.  I also took out another small dead spruce tree that was near the big dead one that will be coming down when we get the lines cleared.  I almost left a young elm to grow, until I clued in to how close it was to the big dead spruce.  I looked up and, sure enough, the elm was directly below the power lines.

So that had to go.

Along with the dead stuff, I also cleaned up some suckers at the bases of other trees, or growing out of stumps.  Some of those suckers had been growing long enough to almost be trees all on their own.  For the trees I took down, I left fairly tall stumps to make it easier to see them until I can cut them at ground level.  A fair bit is being left until my birthday present arrives. 😀

I finished off with the weed trimmer again.

Here are the after pictures.

20180630.cleanup.maplegrove.gardenpath.after

A couple of the stumps near the centre of the picture were already there, hidden by the suckers growing out of them.  The old garden path is now open!

The big dead spruce tree that will come down is the one with the big rock next to it.  There is also a young maple kind of by itself there right now, and I will be cutting that down when my birthday present gets here.  It’s directly under the power lines, too, and already grown tall enough to almost touch them!

20180630.cleanup.maplegrove.near.gardenpath.after

This photo was taken from near the big dead spruce tree.  The main garden area is completely overgrown, but it was so roughly plowed, mowing is not an option.  It’s not a priority right now.

There are three spruces next to each other, just right of centre in the photo.  I am hoping the one in the middle can be salvaged.  The other two are too far gone.

On the garden side, starting from about where those spruces are (I think they are Colorado blues), is the old row a raspberries.  It’s completely choked out with crab grass and weeds, and overshadowed by mostly dead trees, with a very few canes trying to grow.  Another area that is not a priority right now.  When the time comes, we plan to have a raspberry patch with three different varieties, including one with gold coloured berries, that mature at different times.  That way, we will be harvesting berries from July through September. 🙂

All in good time.

20180630.cleanup.maplegrove.near.gardenpath.lookingeast

I plan to work my way down these two rows of trees, next.  Where the big rock is, is the garden tap.  It’s got a couple of dead trees by it, as well as a live one.  They will all come down to clear the tap, and the buried pipe that leads to the house.  I’m hoping the roots haven’t caused any problems.  I have yet to hook it up at the house end to test it out, since it’s barely accessible right now.

There are two old tillers that have been sitting there for years, one covered with a piece of tin, the other with an old rug.  They should still be salvageable, so I am hoping to be able to move them into a shed or maybe the barn, to get them out of the weather.

Once this area is done, I will turn my attention to the West side of the maple grove.  Lots of deadfall in there, too.

The really big job is going to be dealing with the trees to the North of the grove, that has been so densely planted with trees.

While doing this outside, I also will be working on packing up the old kitchen, so we can get that cleaned out and looking good again.  I want to get that done within the next week.  I’d like to be able to open the door and not worry about the cats getting int. 🙂

Lots to do!  🙂

The Re-Farmer