You’d never know

My daughter took care of feeding the outside cats early this morning, so I headed out a few hours later to do the rest of my rounds, including checking to see if any fallen branches needed to be cleaned up, etc.

You would never know that, just a few days ago, we looked like this.

The day after the snow stopped, not only was all this new snow gone, but so was a lot of the remaining older snow! Right now, the only snow left on the ground is either from the deepest piles, or in the deepest shade. Which actually goes a long way to helping me identify where to prioritize new growing zones and high raised beds.

With so little snow and not a whole lot of accumulated water, either, I checked out a few areas in the outer yard I now have access to.

Removing the maple that was allow to grow at the back of this old cabin means there are no longer branches causing damage to the roof, but we have lost a few more pieces of that corrugated tin. There are pieces from a shed that collapsed long before we moved here that can be salvaged to replace the missing and damaged ones, but we have no way to safely get up there to put them on. I really want to cover these patches of roof. This is the last of the log buildings that hasn’t collapsed, and I want to salvage it, if at all possible, but that’s not going to happen if we don’t at least patch up the roof. Ideally, of course, we’d replace it entirely, but that’s not going to happen until we are in a position to repair the building, and that’s not going to happen for a few years, yet. We’ll need to continue cleaning up around it, and cutting away the trees that have been allowed to grow against the walls.

I find myself wondering if the best way to save this building would be to literally take it apart, log by log, and rebuild it on a better foundation (it’s sitting on giant logs that are rotting away and sinking into the ground), and put on a new roof in the process. We’d have to keep track of the individual logs so that they get put back together in the same order, since they are cut to fit just as they are.

When my parents bought this property, this building was used as a summer kitchen. My parents used it as a chicken coop, which never got cleaned up inside after they stopped having chickens, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done inside. It is actually wired for electricity, though, with a couple of lights, light switches and outlets, so that heat lamps could be used for the chicks. I believe it was powered via the old pump shack, much like the current warehouse is now, except that my late brother buried the electrical cable between those two buildings. The pump shack and the old chicken coop are much closer together. I have no memory of it, but there was most likely a power line running from just under the eaves of each roof. I’ll have to take a closer look to see if there is any sign of where the line went into the cabin at some point.

Then there’s this old cabin.

I was able to get around to the far side of it, and it has collapsed even more. What a shame.

When I was a kid, this building used to be closer to the house, where we now have a parking area. It used to be a house. My parents bought this place from my dad’s uncle, but the family that owned it before had built the cabins. This one, and another before it, had been houses. When the family needed a bigger house, they just built another cabin. The original part of the house we live in now was the last cabin they built. I don’t know if they originally built it on a basement or if that was dug out later, but a second floor was included and what we now call the old kitchen was tacked on later, and is not built of logs. At some point, my dad had this old cabin moved here, and it was used as “storage”. Basically, filled with all the junk no one was willing to throw away, or that friends in the city gave to the farm, because there’s always room on the farm, right? I remember playing inside it as a child, before it was too filled up, then again after it was moved, and more filled with stuff. I even found the remains of the cradle I slept in as a child. I was quite startled by how small it was – way smaller than what is now considered safe for a baby crib – but I distinctly remember the little teddy bear design on the inside of what might be considered the footboard. Of course, in my memory, it was much, much bigger.

I have some very, very early memories.

I also remember playing and exploring in the other log building that had been a house. There had been a foot powered sharpening wheel in there, and I wonder if the one I found when cleaning up my dad’s old forge was from there. I doubt it, but I like to think that at least that one thing was saved. During the years I was away, I’m guessing it collapsed, too. All I know is that it was burned, and there is now no sign of it. Sadly, no one considered these buildings worth maintaining.

I’ve had it recommended that we just light a match to this, but I want to dismantle it to clean it up, and salvage what we can. There are bound to be sections of logs that aren’t rotted out, and they can be reused for things like the cordwood buildings we are wanting to build. Much of this wood is so rotted that yes, it will get burned, but there is so much stuff in there, we need to dig it out and see how they should be disposed of properly.

That oil drum in the foreground would make a good replacement burn barrel, if we had a way to cut the top off.

Because this is so close to the septic outlet, we might have to get rid of those trees that should never have been allowed to grow against the building in the first place.

What a shame.

Thankfully, the winds have died down, but to have an idea of just how windy it got…

The winds have been slowly destroying the tarp – or what was probably the roof of some kind of shelter – and I’d put the rocks and old tires to keep it from blowing around as much. The winds were high enough to actually blow that tire on the ground off the roof of the car! I pulled as much of the tarp back as I could – it needs to be replaced, of course, but a little bit of coverage is better than no coverage – and put the old tire back on top.

What’s really amazing is on the left of the photo. Do you see what looks like three sticks poking through the tarp?

Those look like maple. There’s a tree growing under there! It wasn’t there when I put the tarp on, several years ago. Somehow, it has managed to get enough light under there to grow and actually break through the tarp. Once things warm up a bit more (the tarp is still frozen to the ground on this side), I’ll have to uncover it and remove the tree.

Talk about resilient!

Usually, when extending my rounds this time of year, I’m making note of all the things that we’ll need to work on and hopefully complete over the summer months. What’s frustrating is looking at things like this, knowing what work needs to be done, but also knowing we can’t do it for various reasons. Like not being able to safely get up to patch the roof on the one cabin, so it doesn’t end up like the other one.

Well, we shall see what we manage to get done over the next few years.

The Re-Farmer

Winterizing: clearing an old roof

One of the things I’ve been wanting to get done in the outer yard, was to clear some trees from what used to be a chicken coop, when I was a kid. Getting things done in the outer yard has now been pushed back another year, but the last wind storm we had left more damage to the roof. It’s a job that needed to get done sooner, rather than later!

Since this involved some rather larger trees, I figured I would finally use the chain saw I got repaired last year!

Of course, I had to test start it, first. It’s been a very long time since I’ve used a gas powered chain saw, so I appreciated that it has each step written out, right on the machine.


Yeah. I pulled on the knob, and the whole piece broke off!

So much for using a chain saw.

This meant dragging out a 100 ft extension cord and the reciprocating saw, instead.

This is what it looked like before I started.

Someone went through all the effort to cover the original roof with corrugated steel, only to have so many pieces get torn off, because no one cut back the self-seeded maples.

This is not a small tree, either!

Yeah, I had to cut my way through burrs, first, just to reach it!

The other corner had tree problems, too.

You can see how both sections of tree are rubbing against the corrugated steel. On the side, it at least bent into a more rounded shape…

This one was growing around a sharp end!

I started off cutting the lower branch that was tearing the metal sheets off on the south side, then trimming it back, bit by bit, until I had to cut the trees from this side, to be able to reach the rest.

This is where they were rubbing against the roof.

Once the smaller ones were clear, I could reach more of the larger tree and get that one clear, too.

I had to move other things around, too. The sheet of metal is still buried somewhere; I could only lift and bend part of it to get access. I am not sure, but I think roots have grown over the buried end. !!

After I reached this point, I spent some time trimming branches and cleaning up.

This is where I stopped for the night. I might not take the rest of the trunk down. I haven’t decided, yet. Left alone, all of the stumps will start growing again, and I really want to prevent that. This log building is remarkably solid, and it’s the only log building left that isn’t collapsing outright, so we really want to protect it as much as we can, until we can possibly even restore it.

I don’t know what to do about this section of roof, though. We might have some sheets of metal roofing material large enough to use, lying about, but no safe way to get up there. I will have to consult with my brother. We likely can’t do anything until next year, but with the branches gone, it will at least not get ripped apart in high winds, anymore.

It’s hard to see, but in the tall grass are piles of smaller, thinner branches I trimmed off.

These larger branches have been set aside to be trimmed, and I will keep the larger pieces.

Some logs are already trimmed and set aside – including a pile of wonky shapes, in the back!

Maple is quite a heavy wood to drag around! That last, biggest piece of trunk was pretty awkward to move, too. It is, however, large enough that I might be able to get some long, shallow bowls out of it. I’ve ordered a gouge that I can use to carve deeper than with what I have now, and I hope to be able to carve some cups as well as small, deeper bowls. I might be able to do some small dishes, too.

I clear branches off differently now, compared when we were first clearing trees away. I no longer cut smaller branches right at the main branch. Now I leave longer pieces that may end up being the handles for ladles, or long handled spoons, with the crook of the branch being the bowl for ladle or spoon.

A lot of this wood, in a variety of sizes and shapes, will end up in the basement for potential future projects. Some pieces will join the apple wood by the fire pit, and what’s left will go into the piles for chipping.

I was losing light by this point, so I will continue tomorrow. By the time I put all the tools away, it was full dark – and only 5:30 by the time I got inside! It felt like 8 or 9. 😀

If all goes productively, I’ll be able to clear more, smaller, maples that are growing up against the pump shack, giving access to the windows the cats broke. Some of the mamas have had their kittens in there. One of the windows was only half a window. The other half had a board with a hole cut in it for a stove pipe. My brother took the stove itself away, because it was getting damaged. The cats had been jumping through the hole for the stove pipe, but over time, the stress of that finally broke the other side. Meanwhile, another window lost its pane when I walked into the pump shack, not knowing a cat was in there. The poor thing panicked and jumped through part of the window. 😦 At least it was an old, single pane window that was barely holding together already, so the cat was completely uninjured.

We’ll see what we can find to patch those up, tomorrow.

The Re-Farmer

Future plans; checking out the old chicken coop

While doing my evening rounds today, I decided to take a look at the building that we had used as a chicken coop, when I was a kid.

Since we first moved here, the roof/attic has been slowly settling downwards by noticeable amounts. The board you see me puling away from the wall used to be directly above the door. As things settled downwards, this board ended up over the top of the door, making it impossible to open. Now, it has dropped further but has weakened to the point I could just pull it away from the wall and the door.

That meant I could pull the door open.

Sort of.

When I pulled on it, that top hinge came loose (the bottom one was already loose). I ended up just lifting the door out of the ground it was being pushed into, and sliding it to the side.

Previously, the only way I could get a look inside had been to shove my phone through the gap in the door and use voice commands to take pictures, hoping it was angled half-way decent. Today is the first time I could actually go in and see what’s in there since… well, since we still had chickens, when I was a kid.

I didn’t go far.

Why are there so many old tires, all over the place? And so many of them still on rims!

At the far end you can see the nesting boxes, and to the right is the roost.

It was so strange to look at it. In my childhood memory, that roost was much, much higher. In my mind’s eye, I was expecting it to be a couple of feet from the ceiling. I actually remember looking UP to the roost, when I went in to tend to the chickens!

I’m pretty sure this old cabin did NOT have a dirt floor, but it was always covered with straw, except for the part under the roost, which was covered in chicken poop, so I can’t quite be sure.

I’m kinda hoping I am remembering that wrong, and this really is a dirt floor. I remember helping clean out the old straw, but not well enough to remember if there was a floor under there.

Whatever it is, I did not go any further in than I could while stepping on some boards near the door.

I don’t know what that material is that’s covering the walls. It’s almost like asphalt shingles, except much thicker.

You can see where the clay between the logs crumbling out in places, such as right by the door in the above photo.

This little side area is where we would keep new chicks. There is another little space at the far end with a door that was basically a frame with a screen finer than the chicken wire I’m taking this photo through. New chicks would have been small enough to squeeze through chicken wire. I can’t quite remember, but I think that’s where the feed was stored.

You can also see the outlet where we plugged in the heat lamp for the chicks. Below the window is an opening for the chickens to go outside. There was chicken yard enclosed around 2 sides of the cabin, with the area on the other side of this wall sectioned off, and another door to access it from outside. This way, the new chicks could be kept away from the older ones, even when they were big enough to venture outside. When they were fully grown, the doors into the chick enclosures would just be left open. In the summer, we would leave the main door into the enclosure open during the day, so the chickens could wander around the barn yard as they pleased, then closed them up in the coop for the night, making sure to close up little opening in the wall, too. Skunks, foxes and weasels were the most common predators we had to keep them safe from. Especially skunks.

To take the above photo, I am standing in what used to be part of the smaller chicken yard. You can see the piece of electrical cord coming out from under the right side of window frame. The cut end is hidden behind a dried up leaf. The outlet itself is in a different location than where that wire is, so I don’t know what it’s actually for. You can also see signs that the outer wall used to be covered in plaster and painted white.

It’s in rough shape and kinda gross, but of the 3 log buildings we’ve got, this is the one that’s the most solid and least damaged. If there is any chance of salvaging it, we’ve got to take care of some things.

One of those things is to cut away the trees that have been growing against it. This one here is growing partially out from under the back wall. Though efforts had been made to protect the roof by adding what looks like a corrugated tin over the original wood shingles, the branches of this tree has torn off a whole section of it, and is tearing more pieces off with every strong wind. You can even see one of the pieces of tin from the roof half buried under debris at the bottom of the tree. Which gives an idea of just how long ago it was torn off and has been sitting there.

Quite a few sheds and outbuildings have trees growing right up against them. They are almost all maples. One near the pump shack had been cut down; there is a rather large stump there. Maple stumps throw out new growth, though, which might be great if you actually want to coppice them, but not so good if you’re trying to protect buildings.

When we moved here, my original timeline has been to work on the inner yard for the first 2 years, then start on the outer yard in the third summer. Last summer was a bit of a write off in some ways, so it’s going to take another year to finish that, but there are things that need to be done in the outer yard that really shouldn’t wait.

Cutting away the self-sown trees that are causing damage is one of those things!

The Re-Farmer

There be Cows Here!

We had a nice rain today and, when it was down to a drizzle, the girls decided this was a good, safe time to get the fire pit going and burn down the pile of wood we had in it.

Then we had a cook out.  Because, why not?

While we were out, I could hear the sounds of cows mooing.  Not unusual, except that the sounds were much closer.

Like, really close.


This is taken from the gate beside the fire bit.

My mom rents most of the land out to someone, including the other quarter section.  He’s had his cows grazing there for a while, and now they are here.

While we had the fire going, even though it was still kind of raining, I couldn’t help but work on the area near the fire pit, cleaning up the area next to the log cabin that’s got a collapsed roof.  There were a lot of dead branches to clean up, plus saplings to trim away, etc.  More stuff for the fire pit! 🙂

The roof of the cabin is decidedly interesting.


That is a lot of nails.

This would be the remains of one of the trusses.


This board would have had shingles nailed to it.  They were all wooden shingles, most of which seem to be gone, now, leaving their nails behind.  !!


We also had a squirrel go onto the roof, where it seemed to find something to eat among the pieces of fallen roof!

My head just clears that truss piece, as I walked back and forth under it, making my daughters very nervous! 😀

As I was cleaning up along here, grabbing dead branches and dragging them out, the toe of my shoe caught on something under the decaying leaves along the wall, and I almost tripped.  Going back to pick up what I got caught on, I found it was a piece of board.

With nails in it.

Pointing down, thankfully.

I pulled more boards up out of the decayed leaves, also with nails in them, until the girls insisted I stop working in there.

Cleaning up under there is going to have to be a very careful job!

After we had our cook out, I stayed outside to burn more of the wood pile.  While there, I started to hear strange metal noises coming from the barn.

I knew exactly what it was.

I got my younger daughter to tend the fire for me, while I went to check on the cows.


Who, for some reason, decided they needed to graze around this collapsed shed, with all the sheets of metal lying about.  They were walking over the metal, and that’s the sound I was hearing.

They didn’t like me coming over and were already moving away when I took this picture.

The wire in the foreground is an electrified gate.  There are two of them the renter puts up before he brings the cows over, so they don’t go into the house area; this one by the barn, and another closer to where the cows were in top photo.

With the electrified wire there, I went through the barn to get to where the cows where.

I moved things around as best I could but I’d really rather fence this area off until we can get this stuff hauled away and cleaned up.  There’s little I can do about it.  Some of the metal bits and pieces could not be picked up and moved, so I used sheets of tin to cover them as much as I could, then adding whatever I could on top, to prevent the wind from blowing them away.

On the far side, I stepped on something that felt like a potential problem.  It turned out to be part of fence wire that was likely rolled up and left there.  Except it was there for so long, it was now covered in ground and I could not pull it up.  It was completely hidden in the grass, and a definite risk to hooves!  So I covered it with sheets of metal, then dragged a metal headboard out of the pile (I have no clue why anything like that would be there!) and tossed that on top, both to weight it down, and to make it more visible.

I really look forward to when we can start getting rid of piles like this.  It might be a few years before we get to the stuff on this side of the fence, though.

The Re-Farmer

Around outside

A last post about my walkabout in our yard.


The spruce grove next to the house might be what’s preventing us from being able to get more stable internet (with better data plans!), but it sure is beautiful.

This view is from the end of our garden near the road to our driveway.  As you can see, there are quite a lot of downed trees in there.  Quite a few dead trees that we will eventually need to cut down, too.

Well, we’ll have plenty of wood for our fire pit, when the time comes!


In a corner of the yard, near the fire pit, is one of several old log cabins on the property.  The wall facing into the yard has vertical boards for siding.

There used to be a gooseberry bush at the opposite corner.  I used to love picking the juicy, tart green berries and eat them when I was a child.

Years later, I discovered that they were supposed to be eaten after they turned red and soft.  I’d always thought that was when they’d gone bad, because they tasted so bland. 😀

I don’t know what happened to that gooseberry bush.  It’s not there anymore, and other trees are growing near where it was.

This wall here faces what used to be an open area where my late brother had his “bike shop.”  There were all sorts of bike parts and pieces that he would use to cobble bikes together.

Quite a lot of those parts and pieces seem to still be there, rusting away.


I’ve read that this type of corner joining for log buildings is a style mostly unique to our region.

This old shed was used for storage for as long as I can remember.  I don’t know what its original purpose was.


This is part of the inside.  The roof is collapsing on both sides.  The rafters are full of all sorts of things.  I have no idea what that machine is, but it looks like it runs the length of the building.

The stuff jammed into there is amazing.  An old wringer washer.  An electric stove.  What looks like a very, very old washer and drier set.  Pieces of antenna.  Head and foot boards.  Old window frames.  A bike that I think used to be ours.  Tires.

I don’t think anything in there is salvageable.  It all just got shoved in there and forgotten about.

This old log building looks to be in better shape.

That’s a relative statement.

This is actually outside the fenced part of our yard, but is still part of the larger yard that includes the barn and various outbuildings (and cars, trucks, tractors, hay rakes, fuel tanks… ).  Before my father bought the property, this was the “summer kitchen.”  There was a wood stove and the cooking and canning would be done in here in the summer, rather than in the main house, so the house wouldn’t get overheated.  I imagine it reduced the risk of burning the house down, too. :-/

We used it as a chicken coop.  There was a walled in area around two sides of the building for a chicken run, though we would let them out during the day in the summer.

I briefly considered going over to look inside.

I changed my mind.

I just didn’t feel like working my way through the barrier of burs!

We’re back in the yard, next to the house again.

My late brother built this bird house for my mother, and it can be seen from our dining room window.  My mother is a strongly religious person, so he built it in the shape of a church.

It still gets used by birds every year.  I am hoping that we will have a chance to take it down and fix it up this year.  Maybe prune back some of the branches around the post, too.  Once we have a better idea of what’s actually growing there.  It’s in what was one of my mother’s many little flower gardens around the yard, but it seems to be all bushes now.

What I would love to do is have a deck built along this side of the house, with a ramp leading to the end of the house where the current main entry way is, and the direction we need to go to get to the van, so that my husband doesn’t have to fight with the door while trying to get his walker up and down the steps.  Then we’d also be able to start using what is supposed to be the front door.  If that happens, this garden bed will likely need to be taken at least partly out.  Which would not be a bad thing, I am thinking.

The Re-Farmer