Scything and mulching progress

There had been predictions for more rain this afternoon, but when things stayed dry, I headed out with the scythe.

I worked on the area where the hay is still upright, and not flattened to the ground by wind. I took this picture when I thought I was done with scything for the day, but ended up cutting one more swath.

This means we can now access the shed we want to dismantle, now that the roof collapsed over the winter. We still need more space to stack things. I suspect much of it will go into a burn pile, but I know there is some good lumber that can still be salvaged in there, and I want to make sure there’s someplace to put them that’s off the ground. Once the remains of the roof is cleared away, I’m thinking of dragging out the old metal garage door that’s leaning against one wall and laying it on the ground, and using that to stack lumber on top of. If all goes well, we’ll have the materials to build a chicken coop that can handle our winters. I’d really like to build one on wheels, so we can set it up in different places, as needed. I hope to use the chickens as part of our gardening plans, as well as for eggs and meat.

We shall see how that works out.


In the foreground of the photo, you can see some of the dried hay from when I tried using the weed trimmer to cut this. I gathered all the previously cut hay into the wagon and hauled it to the garden.

The Boston Marrow really, really needed some help with all the grass and weeds that had grown through the straw mulch. I have not been able to get more cardboard, however…

I did have the box from when we bought the new lawn mower last year in the garage. It’s a really, really heavy cardboard, and there were so many strong metal staples in two of the corners, it was easier to just cut out that part of the cardboard, after removing all the tape I could.

Because the cardboard is so heavy, and I had just one box, I cut it up into many smaller pieces. Then, for each Boston Marrow, I cut a piece with an opening in the middle, to fit around the plants. Once each plant was done, I filled in the spaces in between with the remaining pieces.

I was short one piece to finish!

Ah, well. Close enough.

The dried hay in the wagon, however, was not enough to mulch all the squash, however. So I went back and got the freshly cut hay.

Thanks to the net that came with the wagon, I was able to jam all of it into the wagon.

It was enough to almost completely finish mulching the area.

Because there was no mulch on top of the cardboard I’d already laid down around the green patty pan squash and the hulless pumpkins, not only did the cardboard dry quickly in the sun, but pieces kept getting blown around. In this bed, it was bad enough that I weighed them down with some boards, as best I could.

Thankfully, there was enough hay to mulch all the individual squash plants, but not enough to finish filling in the spaces between the hulless pumpkins, nor to fill in up to the corn. It will be sufficient for now, though. Once the hay was down, I wet it enough that the cardboard below would be damp, too.

The green patty pan squash plants are so tiny, they’re completely hidden by the hay! I did make sure they were not covered. Honest. 😄 As small as they are, after all this time, there is still the possibility of a crop out of them. They have only 55 days to maturity. I’m hoping that, now that they’re mulched and not fighting for nutrients – and they’re no longer drowned out! – they’ll perk up, and we might have something to harvest by the end of August.

The cardboard being blown around is a problem in the big squash patch, too, but there was no more hay. I decided to use some of the remaining straw bale.

I only got one load done. Just enough to mulch two Baby Pam pumpkin plants.

This is one reason why. The handle on our new garden fork broke off!

The other reason is, while pulling the straw off the bale, there were clouds of what look to be mold spores being kicked up. I really didn’t want to be breathing that stuff!

Well, there’s a whole area just north of the garden that’s too overgrown to mow. I’ll start scything that to use on the nearby squash patch, so that I’m not having to use the wagon to bring it over.

But not today. Probably not tomorrow, either, as I will be out and about for much of the day. Saturday is supposed to hit 28C/82F, but if I get started scything early enough, I should be able to escape the heat. The hottest part of the day is typically around 5pm, so there should be plenty of time.

Little by little, it’s getting done.

The Re-Farmer

It was worth a try.

I have had no progress at all in the scything lately. Between the heat, the rain and getting sick, it just hasn’t happened.

I got a call this afternoon from the tree removal company. He was in the area and would be able to stop by and look at the branch piles to give me an estimate. So I went out to unlock the gate, then decided to stay and work on the hay from the scything I did manage to do.

This windrow, and what is already in the wagon, is the equivalent of 4 passes with the scythe. The grass that was cut has already grown so much!

I was emptying that first load when the tree guy showed up. On looking at the big branch pile, he had a recommendation for me.

Find a farmer with a tractor that can just get rid of it for me.

Because the pile has been there for so long, stuff on the bottom will be composting already. They’ve done jobs like this before, and the guys end up having to use forks to pick up the branches, because they’re so broken down. It’s a real pain, not not really worth it.

I told him that we want the chips, too. We walked around a bit and I showed him the other branch piles, and talked about how we’re finally planting trees instead of just cutting them down. We will need lots of wood chips for mulch.

For a chipping job like this, he would send two guys, at $200 an hour. At that rate, with what we’ve been able to set aside, we can do 3 hours next month.

So that’s what we’re going to do. Some time after July 31st, he’ll find a day to sent a 2 man crew here. They will chip as much as they can. With three hours, he thinks they should be able to do quite a lot of it. The priority is the big pile in the outer yard, and the smaller one by the garage. If they have time, the next priority are the two piles in the maple grove, behind the house. With those ones clear, we’ll be able to dig up the hose to the garden tap and replace it, so we can have water at the garden again. Anything more than that is bonus.

He did make sure I knew there would be a mess to clean up when they were done. All the stuff that’s too composted for them to put through the chipper. Which is fine. With the big pile in particular, we already have a burnable junk pile next to it. Anything that can’t be chipped will be burned or composted. I don’t expect any of it to be otherwise useable.

Before we worked that out, he mentioned that if we wanted wood chips, he could bring us a load if they had a job in the area, for $50. Since they chipped the wood for us when they cleared our roof and power lines, I know what size their load is, and that is a very good price. I will make sure that we have cash on hand, so that if they’re in the area and can swing by with a load, we’ll be ready for them. With all the stuff we are doing, we will continually be needing more wood chips. There’s only so much we can use the wood chipper we have, since it can only take really straight branches. Almost none of what we’ve accumulated is straight enough! He knew exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned that. It just gets jammed.

After he left, I continued moving the hay to the garden, deciding to start adding it to the squash patch.

That’s all I was able to cover; 10 plants in total. Which is better than nothing! I did make sure it was a good, thick layer.

Check it out! This is a Baby Pam pumpkin. They don’t get very big. I’m surprised this one is still growing. Given the colour, I thought it wasn’t pollinated and expected it to wither away, but nope. It’s still growing! There’s another plant with a female flower that I hand pollinated, just in case.

Once the hay was all laid out, I took a hose to it to soak it as much as I could. The carboard below dries out so fast in the summer heat, which means it’s more likely to get blown around by the wind. Adding the hay for mulch serves several purposes!

The garden could really use a lot more of this mulch, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to scythe the rest of the area in front of the barn. Aside from still feeling weak after getting sick not long ago, high winds have blasted parts of the area flat. It’ll be harder for the scythe to cut through hay that’s already lying on the ground.

I decided to try something different.

I decided to try using the weed trimmer, since I could plug it in from the nearby garage. This is how it looked before I started.

This is all I was able to get done! I didn’t even finish the entire length to the branch pile. It started to rain, so I put away the weed trimmer and extension cords, only for it to stop raining before I was done. I didn’t bother continuing.

Using the trimmer was much slower and less efficient than the scythe. The only advantage was that I could physically do it, whereas I would not have been able to use the scythe at all with how I’m still feeling. The resulting “hay” is a mess, too. The length of the grass wants to get wrapped up in the weed trimmer, so I had to sort of work my way down, shortening the strands as I went. I suppose the one good thing about that is, the dried seed heads fell off. I’ll leave the “hay” to dry for a bit before I gather it to mulch the garden, so even more of the seed heads should get threshed out in the process.

I’ll try scything the area again, when I feel up to it, but I might have to give up and use the push mower. I would first have to go over it with the mower as high as it can go, then cut it again at least once more, at a lower setting. It might take three passes to do it all. Scything would be faster, if I can cut the flattened grass. There are just patches of those, not the whole thing, so we shall see.

Still, using the trimmer was worth a try, and I got at least some of it done, even while I’m still not back to 100%. I thought I was feeling better until I tried to eat something and… no. Still unstable. Ugh.

Looking at the weather forecast for the next while, we should be able to get more done. If I’m not up to scything, I should at least be able to do regular mowing. The puddles in the yard are gone again, so I can actually do all of it.

I hate getting sick. So much productive time gets wasted!

The Re-Farmer