Matched Set, and hot water woes

When doing my morning rounds, I used to get followed by at least Beep Beep and Butterscotch. Sometimes, other cats would come along, but it was usually those two in particular. That changed after they had their kittens. Butterscotch no longer even likes to be picked up anymore (I think it has become uncomfortable for her) and she’s become a lot more stand-offish. Lately, I’ve been seeing her as infrequently as the male cats.

Beep Beep is a lot more homey and, while she doesn’t like being picked up as much as she used to either, it doesn’t seem to be out of any sort of discomfort. She has started to follow me again in the mornings, and the kittens are beginning to expand their territory.

Even Big Jim came out to see what was going on.

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Clean up: firepit area, gate and fence line start

This evening, I decided to be methodical about clearing the west yard trees, and get right into the fence line.

It was a lot more work than I expected!

This is what it looked like when I left it last time.

I didn’t get photos from this angle today, but if you look behind the dead trees I cut down, that’s the area I focused on.

I had not really intended to start on the fence line on this side yet, but the mess was starting to get to me.

I am using the row of elm trees as my guide line for clearing the fence.  Anything between where those trees are and the fence line will be taken out.  This will leave a walkable path to access the fence.

I started at the gate post and made a discovery.

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There’s two of them.

From what I can figure out, as the older gate post started to become unstable, a second post as added, and new and old were tied together with a loop of barbed wire.

It was most likely a temporary fix that ended up a permanent one.

The problem is…

Both posts are rotten and broken at the bottom.

The hedge that had grown into the fence was pretty much the only thing holding it up.

I don’t really want to replace this fence.  I’d rather take it out completely.  I am wanting to install new fencing that will include both driveways, instead.  So for now, this old fence will remain for as long as it holds up.

As I worked down the line, I also discovered that there’s not just two gate posts, but two fences!  Somewhere along the way, the old barbed wire fence got a mesh wire fence added with it.  Then other cable type wire was also added, along the bottom.  You can see part of it at the bottom of one of the gate posts, above.

This made clearing away the lilacs more challenging, because it was woven through both the barbed and mesh wire.  For many of them, I had to cut them at least twice, so I could get the pieces out of the fence.

A surprising amount of the lilac was already dead.  Most of the living lilac is on the other side of the fence.  Which I will leave for now.  It’s keeping the fence from falling over.

In the end, it took me almost two hours to clear barely 8 feet of fence line!

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I’m also clearing in between and around the lilac and caragana that is in line with the row of elm trees.  That included taking down a dead lilac that was a thick as a tree!

I’m going to have to change up when I work in the yard.  We’re getting heat wave weather warnings for the next week.  I like to do the work in the afternoon or evening, but the hottest part of the day tends to be around 5pm.  It’s almost 9pm as I write this, and we’re still at 25C, with a “feels like 29C”.  I’m going to have to start working on this stuff in the morning, instead, when it’s cooler, because by afternoon, it’s supposed to reach 29C, and feel like 34C, but be only 18C in the morning.

I am not a morning person. 😀

Well, if I’m driving my daughter to her shifts that start at 8 or 9am anyway, it will work out for me to do yard work when I get back in the morning, instead of after I pick her up at 4 or 5pm.

She has a road test booked in September.  She’ll be able to drive herself to work, if we don’t need the van for something else.

It is becoming increasingly clear we are going to need a second vehicle for the girls.  That and our utter dependency on having a vehicle makes me extra paranoid about having only one.  It’s not like there are any buses we could use instead, or anything is close enough to walk to!  We went about a month not driving our van until we had the money to replace the fuel pump, to avoid causing more damage (which our mechanic really appreciated), and that was enough for us!

At least we’ve finally reached a point where we are caught up.  As of this month, we have no expenses left related to our move.  Yay!  It only took us 9 months. :-/  Starting next month, we can start diverting money to a contingency fund to pay for things like getting the trees cleared from the power lines and roof in the fall, or towards getting a second bathroom installed.  Or unexpected emergencies, like the van breaking down!

The problem is, there are SO many things that need work around the house and yard, it will be hard to prioritize.  We had hoped to get the second bathroom installed this summer.  It’s high on the priority list, but clearing the trees became the higher priority since… well… we’d really like to NOT have our roof damaged or have branches knock out our power lines.

Little by little, it’ll get done.

The Re-Farmer

Clearing the apple trees

This afternoon, I got out the weed trimmer and started going around the edges of the yard, in preparation for mowing.  I wanted to trim all the way to the end of the row of crab apple trees by the main garden, so I grabbed an extra extension cord.  This made for a total of 250 feet of cord, and it was enough to do almost the entire yard, without having to move from the outlet outside the kitchen to the one in the sun room.

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I also tried to go further into the overgrown main garden a bit.  The plow line is there, and my goodness, it’s rough.  What a mess.  Still, I was able to go into the overgrown area a bit to trim out some burdock, before it got too bid, as well as some thistles.

Mostly, though, I’m glad to get the area around the apple trees finally done all the way to the end.

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This is the very last tree in the row, and as you can see, the main trunk is mostly dead.  It’s just got a few little branches with a handful of leaves on them.

I am planning to take the main trunk down completely.  What greenery is there is mostly from the saplings at its base.  I will select the one that looks the strongest and healthiest, then cut away the rest.

It you look in the background of the photo, you can see the north edge of the spruce grove, though a fair number of poplars have seeded themselves further in.  That north side is a straight line of spruces which, I learned only recently, was planted by my oldest brother.  I’m not sure if I was even born when those were planted!

When I am done in the maple grove, I plan to start working on the spruce grove from here.  I want to clear away the majority of the self-sown trees, but mostly, I want to clean out the bottom branches of the spruces.  They are all dead, though hidden by the living branches higher up.

I think, for the spruce grove, instead of working from one end to the other, as I have been with the maple grove, I will start with clearing the circumference.  Especially the fence lines.  They are getting away too overgrown, and I want to reduce the damage being done to the fence as long as I can (though when we moved here, there was already one tree that had fallen right on the fence).  Hopefully, I’ll at least be able to get that done this year.  The bulk of the clean up in the spruce grove will be done next year.  This is going to eventually involve clearing out many downed trees, and cutting down lots of dead ones, too.

It’s going to be a huge job!

The Re-Farmer

Apples to apples

While checking on the apple trees along the garden, I couldn’t help but notice just how different they are.

They are all crab apples, but I know nothing about the varieties.  I don’t know where my parents got them from.

This first batch of pictures are from different trees, with my hand there to give perspective.  (click on them to see bigger images)

At least one tree was pruned back so severely, it is not producing any apples at all.  I am not sure if it will survive to next year.

There is another at the far then that has two large trunks that are mostly dead, surrounded by suckers have have been allowed to get quite large.  I am debating what to do with it.  I am thinking to just take out the dying trunks completely, while choosing one, maybe two, of the strongest suckers to leave behind, and cutting away the rest.

As for the pruning done last year, I believe what was cut away are dead and dying parts, because most of them still need to have their branches thinned out.  I will also look at thinning the apples on some of them, so the remaining ones will have more room to grow, and to take some weight off of the branches.

This next photo is from one of the ornamental apples by the old kitchen flower garden.

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From what my mother told me, these apples remain quite small and are not edible.

The next photo is from a very old crab apple tree, near the ornamental apples.

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This is the one that, as I was mowing the lawn as a teen, I would go under the branches, grab about 5 or 6 apples, and eat them while I continued mowing.  By the time I worked my way back to the tree, I was finished eating one batch and ready to grab some more!  They were to very tart, and I loved that.  The apples in the photo are about the size they were when I did that.  So not ripe at all! 😀

The next photos are from another tree near the ornamental apples.

It has two main trunks that are looking very dead.  One has a lone branch reaching to one side, with a few leaves at the end, and a single apple.

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It’s probably the largest apple of all the ones I looked at today!

From what I can see, there are no other apples from this trunk.

This next photo is from the other side of the tree.

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I would say that these are two, completely different trees!

And yet, they are together…

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This is the base of that apple tree.  I wonder if it was grafted at some point?  I can’t really tell.

I think the larger trunk on the right in the photo is actually completely dead.  The branches are so entwined, it’s hard to say for sure.

What I will likely do, probably in the fall, is simply cut out the two big trunks completely, and leave behind the strongest looking of the young growth.

One of the things my mother had but never used is a juicer.  I can see us making good use of that when it’s time to harvest the apples!

The Re-Farmer

Windblown clean up, and finding things

While cleaning up after yesterday’s winds, I did the usual circuit around the yard, including behind the storage house.

Funny how, no matter how many times we go through different areas, we still find things we missed before.

Somehow, I missed this.

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It looks like someone dumped the lava rocks from their BBQ behind the storage house.

My parents didn’t BBQ.  Though I do remember seeing several old BBQs in the barn at some point.  I believe they are all gone now.

Well, it’s better than old cat litter and toilets, I suppose.

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By the time I finished my round, this is what I’d picked up.

Yes, there is a wheelbarrow under there.

This isn’t everything, of course.  Just the stuff that was big enough that they would be in the way of mowing.  There will always be little stuff around.  I did end up getting a rake out to pick up what was under the Chinese elm outside the kitchen window.  They were all of a size I would normally leave behind, but there was so many of them, they would have hampered mowing, while also too small to be practical to pick up by hand.  That, alone, half filled the wheelbarrow.

Before I started cutting down the apple tree that fell, I checked the few raspberries we have, and found this lovely Painted Lady.

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I’d actually seen another, larger, butterfly first – I don’t know what kind – but it flew away before I could get a photo.  This, and another Painted Lady were quite content to stay and pose for me. 🙂

After breaking down the fallen tree (oh, how good it is to have my little chain saw, and a supply of chain oil!), I took a look at the next closest apple tree.  It had a dead branch that I decided to take down as well, but on closer inspection, I noticed something.  This tree splits into 3 major trunks, one of which had split off to make a fourth that grew straight up.  The part that grew outwards had already been pruned back quite a bit, but did have new green branches growing out of it.  The part growing straight up was dead.  While I had noticed a few dead branches before, it was so hidden by the leaves of the rest of the tree, I didn’t see that the whole thing was dead.  I was able to cut it free and untangle it from the living branches, finding it much larger than I expected.   By the time I took off the dead branch, plus this dead trunk, the tree looked a lot less crowded!  Which should be good for the crab apples.  More light, air and room to grow.

While talking to my sister in law about their apple trees that they’ve been pruning back due to an insect infestation, she commented that apple trees seem to be very susceptible to problems.  Judging from what I’ve been seeing with ours, I tend to agree.  Thankfully, we don’t seem to have insect issues, but I don’t think the signs of fungus I’m seeing on so many of them is any better. 😦

Ah, well.  We deal with what we find!

The Re-Farmer

Not the kind of windfall I was wanting…

We’ve been getting storm warnings for the day, but in our area that has translated to high winds, some rain, and hot, humid air!

I have made it a practice to walk around the yard after we’ve had high winds to check out what damage there might be.  Most of the time, I find some downed branches that I can just pick up and take to one of the wood piles we’ve got around.  Sometimes, I’ll have to make a couple of trips.

Not today.

This time, I grabbed a wheelbarrow.

My younger daughter and I headed out to town and were gone for perhaps 2 hours.  When we left, there were maybe a few small branches on the ground.

This is what I picked up after we got back.

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Most of this is willow from only two trees.  Willows are pretty indestructible, but notorious for dropping smaller branches in a stiff breeze.  There are more than small branches!  Plus, most of this is from the willow that’s overhanging the power lines.

As I continued around the yard, I found these.

Charred bits of wood, near the area I’d found the burned branch a while ago. Yes, it’s directly under the main power lines, though went I looked up, all I could see was some lower maple branches, and could not tell where these burned bits had fallen from.

Yikes.

The Re-Farmer

Red Sided Garter Snake!

We saw our first snake of the year!!

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Can you spot it in the greenery?

Thankfully, it moved and stayed in a spot I could get better pictures of it. 😀  (There IS a red stripe along its sides; honest!)

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Garter snakes are awesome to have around, because they eat insects, mice – even leeches. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Manitoba‘s famous Narcisse Snake Dens, either in May, when they first come out of hibernation, or September, when they return to the dens, I would highly recommend it.  There are dens in Saskatchewan and Alberta, too, but none as extensive as in Narcisse.  Sadly, people sometimes destroy the dens, thinking the snakes are some sort of pest, which they most certainly are not!

Judging from the size of this one, it might be a female.  They are quite a bit bigger than the males.

I am so happy to see it, and I hope to see more!

The Re-Farmer