Just in time

Well, it took the three of us a couple of hours, but we finally did it. We got the tarp over the hole in the shed roof.

One thing I can say about that shed, now that we’re done.

It’s not going to last much longer!

Anyhow.

The first thing to do, of course, was to open up the tarp.

This is what 20′ x 30′ looks like. It’s being held up at the back by tall grass.

The kittens really, really loved this tarp!

Now, I’ll say right from the start, this tarp should have been oriented the other way. We could have covered the entire roof with it. That, however, was not an option for us. There was simply no way we could do that, reach the edges and be able to fasten it down, safely.

The trick was, how to get one end of the tarp over the roof. I decided to make use of the remaining PEX pipe I bought to use as netting support in the garden, so make one end more or less rigid. There was just over 20′ of it left, too, so that worked out.

I was going to Zip tie the pipe to one end, but I couldn’t find my package of smaller sizes, and I wasn’t about to waste the long ones I had on this. I did, however, find an unopened roll of garden twist ties. I’d bought 2 of them a couple of years ago, and never used the second one.

The PEX was in a roll, so it took some doing to straighten it out as much as I could. With the temperature barely above freezing, I was trying to warm it with my hands and much as I could, to make it more flexible.

It still wanted to roll up again, especially at the ends, but it worked well enough.

Then next step was to tie twine to grommets near the corners. I’m glad I got those rolls of bale twine! Very handy. I used my arms to roughly measure out about 35 feet of twine, then tied them on.

Next, I needed weights. Something that I could tie to the twine and throw over the roof – keeping in mind that I’m not very good at throwing things! I poked around in the barn for a while and found these.

Perfect!

By this time, one of my daughters joined me. It took a few tries, but we got them over the roof.

Mostly.

With one of them, I was able to grab it with a garden tool, but the other one had to be pulled back and thrown again. 😁

Before we could haul the tarp over, though, we also had to prune some trees away. They need to be cut away from the shed completely, because of the damage they’re causing. I didn’t cut the dogwood, though. Unlike the maples, its not going to develop a large trunk or branches that will tear the shed apart.

By this time, my other daughter was able to join us. It took a LOT to wrestle the tarp over. There were so many things it could get caught on. On the side with the shingles, there were plenty of nail heads sticking out, and not just from where the shingles had blown away. It was even catching on the metal cap at the top. We had to use the extended pole pruner, at maximum length, to get under the tarp and lift it over whatever it was getting caught on – while also trying not to tear holes in the tarp! Of course, the PEX kept trying to roll up again, too, which certainly didn’t help any.

By the time we got it over, it was shifted so far to one side, the hole was completely uncovered, so we then had to fight with it some more, maneuvering it to where it needed to be using twine tied to the grommets. Then, once it was where it needed to be to cover the hole, the hole thing needed to be adjusted so that the roof was covered, the tarp could be tied down, and the door could still be opened.

At this end, it’s tied down at only two places, and I made sure to test to see if the door could still be opened. At some point, we’ll have to pick up some Bungee cords and hooks so that we can fasten it down better, while also being able to unhook them any time we need to open the door.

Also, that old children’s swing? You can just see a line from one of the legs to a fence post at the corner of the shed. For some reason, the swing is tied to that post with barbed wire.

Fastening the tarp in that corner was particularly dangerous, and not just because of that barbed wire. There is all sorts of stuff buried under there, hidden in the tall grass, and even sunk into the ground. Oh, and rolls of more barbed wire, rusting away.

Still not as dangerous as the other side.

Pulling enough of the tarp over so that the door could be opened, meant we could easily reach to fasten it to the wall.

AFTER turning under the sharp corners of some of the metal roof pieces, so they wouldn’t cut the tarp! We ended up rolling an old tire over for my daughter to stand on, so she could reach the edges with pliers.

Aside from the junk snowmobiles and the antique boiler/steamer thing (now that’s something that we should cover, too!) in the way, this area had bits and pieces of snowmobiles the cows scattered, my daughter found glass from the window that broke a few years back – I thought I’d found all the pieces when I fixed that! – rotten pieces of wood hidden in the tall grass, and boulders sticking out of the ground.

There are SO many large rocks sticking out of the ground out here.

With the pipe running along the back of the tarp at the grommets, we could get away with hammering only a few nails in, instead of one at every grommet. Which is good, because the wood of this wall is getting so rotted, it was hard to find spots where we actually could hammer nails in.

Yeah. This shed has definitely not got a lot of years left.

I suspect the nails won’t hold long. I’ll have find other ways to secure it and go back. The main thing, though, is that it’s now in place, and just in time. Ice pellets were starting to fall while I was still setting up the tarp. By the time we were done, it was a mixture of snow and rain. It seems to be snowing right now – at least, I can see some snow accumulated on the ground and the driveway, on the security camera live feed, but we’re also still supposed to be getting rain.

I’m glad we managed to get it done. How long it’ll last, with the winds we get, who knows, but there’s not much we can do about that right now. 😕

The Re-Farmer

Old Kitchen Garden, wattle weaving progress

Oh, I am so happy!!! It’s almost completely done!

I went and borrowed my husband’s phone to take a picture. It’s my old phone, but of course he’s set it up to how he wants it – which turns out to include fingerprint scan to unlock it. I really hate that function. I find they don’t scan fingerprints well, and the last thing I’d want is to get locked out of my own phone because the thing can’t recognize my fingerprint. It could well be because my hands are so rough, it messes up my fingerprints. Either way, it looks like I won’t be borrowing his phone when I got into the city after all. It’s changed so much, I had to get him to tell me where the camera icon was! He does love his funky themes and designs. 😁

Anyhow…

Here it is!

I had enough long poles that I could do the back without having to overlap any. The only problem came when it was time to do just the taller posts. It wasn’t too bad when I was weaving around seven of them, but when it came to just the three at the turn, it was more difficult. I had the shorter pieces for it, but three poles just isn’t really enough to hold the wattles in place, though for some of them, I could push the more flexible tips into the previous wattles to lock them down.

There was lots left over when the inside of the L shape was done, and I wanted to use them while they were still green and flexible, so I went ahead and did the outside. The first thing that needed to be done was to hoe the soil out of the path and back into the bed, while also clearing and leveling where I estimated the uprights would go. Once that was done, I measured two feet from that long pole right in the corner, marking three places; the left and right are lined up with the back walls, while the center one is in the middle.

Knowing I would be working with much thicker poles, I spaced the uprights further apart along the sides, compared to the previous ones. That left me with four extra prepared posts. After using the pencil point bar and a sledge hammer to make holes for the posts, then sledge hammering the posts in place, I could see I wouldn’t be able to use the uprights at the ends, so I added another post at each end, just inside the posts supporting the end wattles.

When it came time to weave the wattles in, I used the longest poles first, with the thickest parts at the ends, so that the more flexible tops would go around the curve. Some of the posts were long enough to actually bend all the way around the curve! When I put in the second side, I was able to wrap the ends around the wattle in the first side. I was able to do this for the first several layers before I found myself having to weave a shorter third pole around the curve. Unfortunately, a few of the poles just couldn’t go around the curve without breaking.

With the more flexible ends going around the curve, this meant the ends built up higher, faster. Which I’m okay with. For the last few pieces, they weren’t long enough to go around the curve at all.

I will need more material to build up the curve, but I also want to build that corner higher, too. So what I need to look for now is a lot of thinner and flexible, pieces. If I can find enough of them, I might be able to not only build up the corner and the curve, but wrap a nice edging along the top, all the way around.

Finding appropriate materials to do this was surprisingly difficult, but I’m really happy with how it’s turning out. By the time this is finished, though, we probably won’t be able to accumulate enough materials to do it again anytime soon, except perhaps for some very small beds.

Once the walls are done, we can add amendments and more soil to this bed to build it up, and it will be MUCH easier on the back to work in it.

The Re-Farmer

Some chilly morning progress

At some point, I’m going to have to borrow my husband’s phone or something, just to have handy to take some progress pictures!

And kitty pictures.

I counted 26 this morning. !! And I didn’t see Rosencrantz until much later, nor did I see Rolando Moon, who seems to have moved on again.

My new phone is expected to arrive on the 28th, which is the day I’m taking my mother’s car in to get the tire fixed. The shipping notice originally said the 27th, which I would have preferred, since that meant I could have the phone set up and ready before going in for our first city shopping trip for next month. I’ll definitely borrow my husband’s phone for that trip, at least.

Once I was done my morning rounds, I grabbed the loppers and went into the south side of the spruce grow. We haven’t done any clean up in there for quite some time. Much of that area was under water this spring, anyhow.

This area has been mostly taken over by poplars, and that was what I was after. As we clean out the spruce grove, one of the things I want to do is cut back a lot of the poplars and plant more spruces. I want it to stay a spruce grove, not turn into a poplar grow. Spruces are better for cutting the wind and snow year round.

What I was looking for were tall, straight poplars small enough to cut with the loppers. At that thickness, they should still be flexible enough to bend as I weave them around the uprights. If it’s too thick to cut with the loppers, it’s too thick for the wattle weaving.

While I was doing that, I found myself working around the apple trees we’ve been uncovering out there. I asked my mother about them, and these were trees she’s planted herself, mostly from seed. My mother still has a hard time understanding that you don’t get the same type of apples from seeds at the tree they came from (as far as I know, there is only one type of apple that grows true from seed). We have no idea what kind of apples these can produce. The area is so overgrown, the much shorter apple trees barely had enough sunlight to start blooming. I was even cutting poplars that were growing through the branches of an apple tree!

Since I was there anyhow, I went ahead and pruned several of the apple trees, cutting away dead branches, and opening them up to more light. With the number of poplars I cut away from around them, that will be a help, too. We will need to come back with other tools to cut away the ones that were too big for the loppers to cut through, as well as other bushes I can’t identify at this point. I was happy to spot little spruces trying to grow through the tall grass and fallen trees and branches, which also need to be cleared away. I was also very thrilled to find a single Tamarack tree. There were three others planted closer to the house, in between some spruces, that are way too crowded together. I’m hoping to save them, but that might require cutting down the spruces next to them, and I don’t want to do that if I don’t have to. This Tamarack, however, as all on its own and would not have been deliberately planted there. I really like Tamarack, and would like to eventually plant more of them.

Anyhow.

I kept finding more of these apple trees, but I couldn’t get at most of them. Of the ones that I was able to prune, though, I’m hoping they will finally get enough light to bloom and produce. I did see some flowers on one of them for the first time last spring, but no apples developed.

I am quite happy with how many small, straight poplar I was able to get at and harvest. Once I was done, it took several trips to drag the piles of them I’d made, over to where the burn barrel is. The branch pile may be chipped, but I’m already adding more to the remains that need to be burned! The next while was spent trimming all the branches and twigs off, adding those to the burn pile, then sorting the remaining poles more or less by length. Then they all got dragged over to the old kitchen garden.

I should actually have enough to finish wattle weaving the inside of the L shaped bed, and even start on the outside of it. What I think I will do for the outside is not have a 90 degree corner, like there is around the double lilac, but to have a curve, instead. I haven’t quite decided yet, but if I think having a curve would actually make things easier, and more even.

By the time the poles were dragged over to the old kitchen garden, I had to go inside to warm up! I don’t know what the temperature was outside at the time, but the thermometer in the sun room was at only about 3C/37F. Which is what our high of the day is supposed to be. It’s almost 2pm as I write this, and we finally reached that temperature outside. Tomorrow’s high is expected to be only 4C/40F, but after that, we’re supposed to have three days with highs of 13C/55F.

I have to get back at work with the poles I cut this morning, though, while they are still at their most pliable. It’s definitely going to be chilly work!

The Re-Farmer

Garden bed and kibble house progress

Today’s high was supposed to be 19C/66F. I don’t know if we reached it, but with the blustery winds, it never felt that warm. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the weather, and my app on my desktop includes historical data for each day, including 30 year record highs and lows for various data. I noticed that today had a record high for snow of 14cm/5.5in in 2019. In fact, we set record highs for snow on the 10th, 11th and 12th, all in 2019. We were just coming to the end of our second year here, so I went looking at my blog posts for those dates.

Ah, yes. I remember that blizzard!

The amazing thing is that, just days later, all that snow was gone, and while we were still cleaning up storm damage, everything was back to green and sunny!

Depending on which app I look at, however, we might be getting a mix of snow and rain starting tomorrow night, and by Friday afternoon, we’re expected to get between 3-6cm (roughly 1-2 inches) of snow.

That meant my focus was preparing to build up walls around the L shaped bed in the old kitchen garden.

I went through the maple pieces I’d cut yesterday and started cutting them to size, cutting points on them, and debarking some of them.

I had lots of furry help. So much help, one of the kitties got plumb tuckered out!

From the longest, straightest pieces of maple, I cut three into 4 foot lengths. Then I went through some of the strongest pieces to cut four 3 foot lengths, then four 2 1/2 foot lengths. After that, I just cut as many 2 1/2 foot lengths from the thinner straight pieces as I could get out of them.

I used a hatchet to cut the points on all of them. That was probably the most unpleasant part of the job. Not so much for the thinner pieces, but for all the thicker ones. I’m ambidextrous for most things, left handed when it comes to fine motor control, but for some things, I am completely right handed.

Using a hatchet is one of those things, and my right hand has been in terrible shape lately. I had difficulty gripping the hatchet, and had to stop frequently to give my hand a break.

The draw knife was awesome for debarking the wood. It’s still quite green and came off easily. I don’t have a way to secure the pieces I’m working on well, so there were quite a few times when I was pushing instead of drawing the blade – and it works just as well that was, too. For some of the thinner pieces, though, it was easier to just use a knife to debark them.

Also, no, that is not rust on the blade of the draw knife. It’s stained with tree sap.

The stack of the thinnest pieces did not get debarked. It would have taken forever and, at their sizes, it would have been awkward. The pieces that will be taking the most stress, however, have been debarked.

That all took a few hours.

Then it was time to get to the garden bed. I pulled the lettuce I’d left to go to seed (it looks like we’ll get seed from just one of them) and got ready to prep the bed. Without walls, soil was falling into the path and the inside of the L shape, and I don’t like wasting good soil!

I used a hoe to draw some of that soil back into the bed, and level off the edge, where the uprights will be going.

The three longest pieces will form a triangle at the inside of the bend. When we start weaving branches through the posts, these will be taking the most stress. Working out from there, one 3 ft piece will go along the short end, and three down the long end. If I have enough materials to do it, I plan to build up the wall higher at these posts, as much to wall around the lilac as to create a wall for the bed.

The four 2 1/2 ft pieces are for the corners at the ends of the bed.

To install the posts, I used the pencil point bar and hammered it into the ground.

Unfortunately, that old hammer doesn’t have the right handle on it, and the head fell off again. I had to switch to a sledge hammer.

I really didn’t want to switch to the sledge hammer.

Ah, well. It worked better. I’m just going to be in a world of hurt, tonight!

I started by placing three posts in, then tied twine between them as guides for the rest of the posts. Then I laid out the spacing for the remaining two 4 ft posts, and the four 3 ft posts.

At this point my daughter, who had been working on putting salvaged shingles on the kibble house, ran out of roofing tar. I’d only picked up a small can for patch jobs, never expecting to need more.

So I left my daughter to continue pounding in the posts while I went into town to pick up more tar, and a few other things while I was there. When I came back, I found my daughter lying on a tarp on the ground surrounded by kittens. She is having much more success at socializing than I am!

She had even pounded the other two corner posts at the ends of the L shape.

The weather was starting to get worse, so I quickly filled in the gaps with the smaller 2 1/2 ft posts.

The long end of the L shape will be only 2 feet wide, so the end posts needed just one more added in between them, plus three more along the north side. The short end of the L shape needed only 2 more to fill the gap. Since this end can be accessed from three sides, we’re okay with it being wider than 2 feet, so the end posts there got two more in between. The rest of the posts will be for the outside of the L shape.

From the looks of it, I’m going to need to find more pieces to be able to finish the outside of the bed, but I’m not concerned about that right now. It’s the inside of the L shape that I need to get done first.

By this time, however, dark clouds were rolling in and it was starting to look like rain, so I left the job at this point and focused on cleaning up and putting away anything that might blow away. My daughter, meanwhile, finished the roof of the kibble house.

The green shingles are almost 50 years old and are in pretty rough shape. The brown ones are better, but they’re almost 30 years old.

The water bowl house roof is thinner plywood, so we’ll be using pieces of metal roofing that we’ve been scavenging for various things since we’ve moved here. If we used shingles, the nails we have would go right through by nearly half an inch, and that would be a problem! I dragged a piece of metal roofing out from the barn that we can cut in half and lay side by side to cover the roof of the water bowl house, but I also spotted a stack of corner pieces. I brought one over, and helped my daughter put it on the edge of the shingles on the kibble house. I found a bin of metal roofing screws in the warehouse, so I grabbed a bunch for when the water bowl house is done, and my daughter used a few of those to install the metal cap on the edge of the roof, using the screw holes that were already in the metal – after making sure to put some tar under each hole, first.

Almost everything about the kibble and water bowl houses has been done using scavenged bits and pieces we’ve found around the property, and a lot of it is pretty old and starting to rot. We don’t expect these to last long, but using paint and even decades old shingles will help them last longer. At some point, it’ll be nice to be able to build versions using new materials, all well measured and cut and leveled, etc. But this will do for now.

Once this was done, I set up a longer extension cord I found that was in good shape, and was able to plug in the cat’s house. We lifted the roof and put in the high density rubber mats I’d dragged out of the barn, which will help insulate the floor. There’s a thick scrap yarn crocheted blanket that is laid out on top of the mats, too. We will not be using straw this year. As much care as we have taken with the terrarium heater bulb, I would much rather not have straw in there! The heat bulb is working fine, with the heat shield still in place, and the timer is set to light sensor, so it will turn on when it gets dark, then off again when it gets light. The smoke detector was tested, too, and it’s working fine.

Once the water bowl house is done and set up where it will go, we’ll be able to plug in the heated water bowl through the cat’s house entry, too.

Tonight, the cats will have a warm and cozy place to stay if they start feeling too chilly. I especially hope the tiniest kittens will start using it!

As for me, I’ve pain killered up and hope I’ll be able to continue in the old kitchen garden tomorrow. For the weaving, I plan to cut the willow branches and use them right away, while they are still very green and flexible.

I really hope this works out. Otherwise, that’s a lot of work for nothing! Well. Not for nothing. Now that those posts are in, even if wattle weaving doesn’t work, I could still use them to hold whatever we find to use instead. It’s all fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants work, anyhow!

Which is half the fun. 😊

The Re-Farmer

Multipurpose clean up

Today did not work out at all as planned. My daughters and I were originally going to take my mother to a marsh in the area to see the migrating birds – something my mother tries to do every fall. Unfortunately, my daughters weren’t feeling well, so we’ll be rescheduling that. We only have today and tomorrow for good weather, though, so I was going to go over to deliver some thanksgiving dinner to her and, if she felt up to it, maybe head to the marsh anyhow. Before heading over, I pulled my mother’s car out of the garage to do a bit of fall clean up – and discovered a flat tire! I pumped it up, then used our van. I couldn’t see anything that could cause a flat, and when I came home, the tire was still holding air, so I don’t know what’s going on there. I’m just glad I decided to clean out the car first, which requires moving the car out of the garage. Where her car is parked is so tight, I might not have seen it before leaving, if I hadn’t. I’ve left it out so we can check the tire any time we’re outside.

So there was no going anywhere with my mother, since it’s difficult for her to get in an out of our van. Instead, we had thanksgiving dinner together with the food that I brought. I am happy to say that she actually tried and enjoyed the peanut soup (after having an angry outburst over the fact that I brought soup at all), and even the roasted vegetables – though she did do a double take when she spotted a sunchoke, asking me what it was. When I told her, she started lecturing me about how I shouldn’t be growing “strange” things – after she had already eaten it! 😄

Overall, it was a good dinner, and I’m glad we were able to do it, in spite of some of the very strange attacks she came up with during conversation. 😄

It also meant that I was able to get home with the conditions still good enough to get some work done outside – though it did get very windy!

I need to build a wall along the “inside” of the L shaped bed in the old kitchen garden. Given what materials we have on hand, I was thinking of doing a wattle weave. I had intended to use lengths of maple suckers that I need to clear out of the maple grove, but after looking more closely at them, none of them were suitable for weaving, nor did they seem adequate for supports.

While bringing kibble to the tray in front of the pump shack, I took a closer look at some maple growing next to it. There was a maple that had been cut down, and suckers have been growing out of the stump for some years, to the point that they were getting into the power line running into the pump shack.

Lots of nice, straight and strong suckers, that would make good upright supports.

So that’s what I worked on today.

At some point, we should come back to the stump with a chain saw and try and clear it away even more. Maple stumps will send up suckers from the stump of a dead tree for ages, if something isn’t done to make sure it’s completely killed off. From what I could see, this maple has been cut down at least twice over the years, and been trimmed of suckers a number of times, too.

You can see where the power line attaches to the outside of the pump shack and runs in. That dangling board used to be attached to the side of the shack somehow. Something needs to be done about that, since it’s supposed to be supporting the line, not hanging off of it! Some of the suckers I cut away had branches tangled up in there. I’m very glad to have them clear of the shack!

I saved the straightest pieces. Hopefully, they will be easy to debark I wouldn’t want them to root themselves and start growing.

There was a lot of material that could not be used, too.

At first I put the cleaned up branches on the pyre stacked over the burnable garbage that’s too much for the burn barrel. On a calm day, we’ll have ourselves a bonfire! I ended up putting the last of the branches on the mostly composted bits that are left over from the branch pile that got chipped, just because there was getting to be too much on the bonfire pile.

I like being able to get more than one job done at once. I got to do some necessary clean up by the pump shack and it’s power line, and at the same time acquire materials to use for a garden bed or two!

As for the branches needed to weave around the uprights, I should be able to prune away suitable pieces of willow branches from the trees in the yard. Trees that have already been trimmed professionally to clear branches from the power line to the house, and that we need to keep trimmed. Willow is very enthusiastic about growing new branches after being pruned, and it’s been a couple of years. I’m just not sure we’ll have enough to do the wattle weaving I have in mind, but there are other willows in other areas in and around the yard that could probably use a good pruning, too!

I’m looking forward to trying to figure it all out, tomorrow. The temperatures are supposed to drop after tomorrow, but we’re also still expecting rain rather than snow, so it shouldn’t be too bad to get work done outside.

Now, if the wind would just die down, that would be great!

The Re-Farmer

Small builds, and green tomatoes

It has been absolutely gorgeous outside today. As I write this, we are at 14C/56F. Just perfect to be outside for many hours!

I was planning to build a soil sifter today, but after fussing with the trail cams this morning, I decided I needed to build a new stand for one of them, first. The gate cam had stopped working again, even though I’d just changed the batteries. The day before, there were only 3 files recorded before it stopped working. The gate is more of a security priority, so I took the new solar powered camera from by the sign and set it up on the stand at the gate. Which was not as good of a set up, but it would do.

I brought the camera that had been at the gate inside and tested the batteries. They had gone down a lot, for being used only for a day, but they were still well into the green. After checking the camera itself out for a bit, I decided to take a scouring pad to the battery contacts in the flip-down cover. Water had gotten into it at some point, and there was rust, but I had given them a scrubbing before, and things were quite dry. Still, it was really the only thing that was available to do. Sure enough, it worked!

I wanted to leave the solar powered camera at the gate, so I took the now working camera to the sign. I could screw it onto the mounting plate, but it’s a very different design. Instead of screwing into the bottom, it screws into the back. With the other camera, I could swivel it into an angle that covered the front of the sign and, because it’s a wide angle camera, it also included the road and intersection. Not being able to swivel this camera meant that it was basically facing the sign, on edge.

I figured my best bet was to use the old flag stand the camera was mounted on at the gate, and bring it to the corner by the sign. That would actually work better than having it mounted on one of the supports holding up the tipping corner fence post. Which meant making something for the new camera, that I could attach the mounting plate to, for the gate.

After scrounging in the barn for some scrap wood (I spotted a couple of Rosencrantz’ kittens just outside the barn!), this is what I made.

The solar panel makes the camera very top heavy. When it was mounted by the sign, there were many files motion triggered not by someone or something going by, but by the wind making the camera wobble on its mount. I made this stand taller, and attached the mounting plate low enough that I can use the strap that also came with it, to secure it more firmly and ensure no wobbles will trigger the motion sensor.

I moved the camera to the other side of the driveway, so that the solar panel will get maximum exposure to sunlight. With the wide angle lens, it also needs to be closer to the gate than the other camera. Once I find the sweet spot for coverage, I am thinking of pegging the legs to the ground, for extra stability. It would be better to have something like a sandbag, though, since I’d have to move it when mowing in the area.

Once that was done, I could start on the soil sifter.

I measured our wheelbarrow and cut pieces for a 2’6″ x 2’4″ sifter. The straight pieces would form a box, and the angled pieces would make a frame.

At this point, the only thing holding the frame together are the metal right angle brackets on the corners. The frame would be secured to the box, with the hardware cloth sandwiched in between.

The roof of the water bowl house made an excellent surface to unroll the 1/2 inch hardware cloth, then use the box to measure out where to cut the wire. Once cut to size, I tacked the mesh to the box with a few staples, just to hold it in place while adding the frame.

There is, a problem with using salvaged wood for everything.

I should have made the frame pieces about an inch longer. I didn’t compensate for the slightly extra width the box got from how I attached them at the corners. However, the wood is warped and uneven, which meant there was no way I could match the frame to the box, even if I’d made the frame part bigger. In several places, I had to put the screws in at an angle to catch the edge of the box. I had been using a drill to make pilot holes, only to break the bit part way through, and I didn’t have another in that size. The wood is old and very dry, so it was easy to put the screws in without a pilot hold but, as you can see, the wood started to split in a couple of places. Some of the wood was already splitting on its own.

Once the frame and box were secured to each other, I folded the excess mesh onto the sides, cutting at the corners so that a piece could fold around the corner to be secured.

The mesh was secured with a LOT of staples around the outside of the box, and more staples were added to secure the mesh to the frame on the inside. These won’t hold well, though. We need a heavier duty staple gun for projects like this.

Once done and set up on the wheel barrow, I could really see how warped some of the wood it. It can’t lay flat. Which is okay. I am not expecting this to last very long, but if I can get a year or two out of it, that’ll be enough. I am planning on using it while cleaning up and preparing garden beds for next year, to sift out rocks and roots. I want to use it on the wood chips, too. The smaller chips can be used as mulch right away, while any larger pieces can be set aside until we can bring the wood chipper out and use the shredder chute to chop the bigger pieces finer.

While I was working on that, one of the things the girls worked on was picking through and sorting all the tomatoes we picked. They found more slugs inside some tomatoes! The ripest tomatoes were set aside to use right away, while the greener ones were to be laid out on screens.

The problem was finding a place the screens could be laid out that the cats won’t get at.

We ended up using the sun room.

The onions were still laid out to cure on the wire mesh door we use for this, so we prepped them by trimming the roots, brushing off the dried dirt, and thinning the greens, before and my daughter braided them. It made for one very heavy braid! Once those were out of the way, we set screens up over the mesh door, and many of the tomatoes would fall straight through the mesh.

In the foreground are the chocolate cherry tomatoes. Then there’s all the yellow pear tomatoes, with the few remaining Sophie’s Choice tucked in with them. At the far end are the Cup of Moldova tomatoes.

They can stay in the sun room to ripen, though we will also be looking up recipes for using green tomatoes, too. There are plenty of ripe ones to start on first, though. Now that these ones are laid out on the screens, they can sit for a while before we have to get at them.

And the kittens can still use the swing bench, below. In fact, there was a kitten sleeping under the tomatoes when I took the picture! Unlike the inside cats, they have no interest at all in what’s on top of the screens. They just want soft, warm places to lie down and sleep!

The Re-Farmer

Have I mentioned I’m a suck for the cats?

It was a gorgeous afternoon and evening yesterday. Not only a pleasant temperature, but even the mosquitoes weren’t as bad. I didn’t want to go back inside when I was done what I needed to do!

One of the things I did was re-do the shelf shelter for the cats. I noticed that the little kittens have been climbing all the way to the top shelf, which was actually use to store stuff, and have been snoozing in a corner, where I’d stacked some smaller pieces of rigid insulation.

The insulation over the bottom two shelves were getting ratty, so I decided to empty the whole thing, give it – and some of the insulation pieces – a hose-down and redo it.

Including making a next in the corner of the top shelf for the kittens, even though it meant not being able to fit everything back in again!

The sheets of insulation lining the bottom shelves were used again, since they fit the best and, aside from a few edges, still intact. When covering the fronts, I left the openings wider than before. When startled, the cats would dash out, catching on the edges of the insulation, sometimes hitting them hard enough to pull them right off the nails holding them to the shelf. I decided to try reducing the height of the openings. I want it open enough for them to easily get in and out, but small enough to let less of the weather in. Hopefully, they won’t get ripped right out by a startled cat!

As for the top shelf, I tucked a small pedestal plant stand in the corner and used it to support two levels with the rigid insulation for the kittens to lie on. There’s more space in front with an insulated floor, and there is insulation along the side and back walls, too. An extra piece across the front, and the kittens have their own little cubby hole to settle in.

Now I just need to clean up and redo the outside of the shelf. It had been wrapped in plastic to protect the wood from snow and rain, with an extended “roof” of rigid insulation, but the wind tore the plastic to shreds, and the cats have broken up the insulation. I’d like to find something sturdier to replace them with.

After I had emptied, swept and hosed down the inside, I had to give it time to dry before continuing, so I started another project.

A new cover for the rain barrel.

A couple of years ago, we made covers for the rain barrels out of window screen mesh and hula hoops. One for the barrel at the corner by the sun room, and the other for the barrel we fill with the host, at the far corner of the garden. The covers were partly to keep debris out, but also to make sure no critters fell into the barrels.

After a couple of years, however, the plastic hula hoops became brittle and started to crack. The cover for the garden barrel had been stored in the old garden shed for the winter, and it looks like something chewed holes in the mesh, too.

The sun room barrel’s cover is held in place with a board weighed down with bricks. When the barrel is getting full enough that more rain would cause it to overflow, the board and bricks hold the rain diverter in place.

Not long ago, I found the cover and its mesh broken up. Something had jumped onto it or something. The mesh had torn, but thankfully whatever did it, did not end up trapped in the water. Then we heard a commotion one night, and I came out to find the board and its weights, and the rain diverter, all knocked off the barrel, and the cover damaged even further. I put the board and its weights back, then found some pieces of rigid insulation to cover the rest of the barrel, with weights to hold them in place, to ensure no critter could access the water, until a new cover could be made. Even that ended up being pusher around a bit, as if some critter was trying to get at the water below – even though we have several bowls of fresh water critters can drink from. A new cover had to be made quickly.

Which is what I did while the shelf shelter was drying.

The materials used are much sturdier!

I considered using some chicken wire, but the openings are too large and the wire too easily broken. I went with some half inch hardware cloth I had, instead. The hoop is the same PEXX tubing I used to make arches to support netting over the old kitchen garden beds you can see in the background.

I used the barrel itself to measure the size needed to make the hoop, then cut a square of the hardware cloth to size, removing excess mesh from the corners to make it closer to “round”. The hardware cloth is a lot stiffer than chicken wire, but the extra strength is, I think, well worth it being such a pain to wrap around the hoop. Definitely glad for gardening gloves! The last step was to use a hammer on the underside to get the mesh right up against the hoop as tightly as I could.

There was, however, one problem.

The top of the barrel is not round. It’s more of an oval shape, and a wonky oval at that. The old hula hoop I’d used before was quite a bit larger than the top of the barrel, so it didn’t matter, but this hoop was cut for a more snug fit. The less sticking out, the less likely a critter will knock it off, even with the weights. I thought I’d still made it large enough to fit over, but the barrel’s shape was just too wonky.

I ended up tying some paracord around it as tight as I could, then used a metal tent peg to twist the cord even tigher.

Yeah. That bend up piece of metal was a tent peg.

Between the paracord pulling the top of the barrel into a more round shape, and the hammering of the hardware cloth tight against the hoop, I was finally able to get it in place. The board and weights were added to support the diverter when we need it, and the extra brick at the back, just in case something knocks the board off again, so the whole thing doesn’t flip off.

I might still add window screen mesh to this, since things like small frogs or insects, as well as small debris, can get through the half inch mesh. As it is right now, a cat – or even a racoon – could jump onto the cover and it’ll hold their weight without issue. The PEXX tubing will also last a lot longer, too.

All in all, I think it worked out rather well for using stuff I got for other projects! 😁 It didn’t even take that long to do. It took long enough for the washed out shelf to dry, at least.

So we now have a shelf shelter for the cats all cleaned out and ready for winter – on the inside, at least – and a cat and other critter proof cover for the rain barrel.

Ah, the things I do for the kitties!

The Re-Farmer

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.

Meanwhile.

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

Morning kitties, and critter damage

I headed out a bit late this morning, and this time, I had lots of kitties waiting for their kibble!

Potato Beetle and Rosencrantz were chill, but Toesencrantz did not like me being so close!

So he joined the party at the kibble house. 🙂

Altogether, I think I counted 10 cats, and saw more running towards the house as I continued my rounds.

While putting the bird seed out, I had a surprise.

It looks like a groundhog tried to dig under the steps again! That plastic had been wrapped around the mock orange to hold the branches back last year, when trying to make it so they wouldn’t dig here again. It did work – until now!

All these rocks and broken pieces of bricks had been used to fill the hole, with pieces of insulation slid between the steps and the basement wall.

Much to my surprise, when I cleared the pieces out of the hole, with the intention of putting all the smaller rocks in, I actually saw movement! I think the grog may actually have been stuck there, with the heavier pieces falling over the opening after it dug through.

In trying to fix this last year, it was a relief to find the digging did not go far. The concrete steps are hollow. In the past, cats have had their kittens under there. I am less concerned now, knowing they’re not digging deep against the basement wall. Unfortunately, they’re also digging up the roots of the mock orange. Mind you, I do want to transplant it to a better location. It’s too close to the house, and gets really dried out.

So I think this time, we will leave the grog to it’s hidey hole under the steps.

I saw another one, later, going under the old garden shed, which makes three spots with dens under them.

I did find another burrow, of a sort.

The wheelbarrow leaning on the bale had start all around it, with just a small opening leading under the barrow. This morning, it was very open, with the straw knocked down and flattened. Taking a closer look, I could see something had burrowed under the loose, fallen straw, around the rest of the bale. I don’t see any dirt, so whatever made this may have a nest deeper in the straw.

I was much more dismayed by this damage.

A bunch of tulips have been eaten!

Not all of them; mostly around one edge. Still, quite a few seem to be just gone; eaten all the way to ground level. They’re not dug up at all, which makes me think it was a deer, rather than a skunk or a racoon.

I don’t think groundhogs eat tulips.

Do they?

Anyhow, I grabbed one of the rolls of chicken wire we’d used to try and protect the Crespo squash last year and set it up as far as it could go.

There’s a second, smaller piece that I hope is long enough to cover the rest of the space. It won’t stop any digging creatures, but hopefully it will be enough of a deterrent that critters in general won’t bother, and go for easier food elsewhere.

Along with the usual morning routine, I also checked out the road conditions, which will be in my next post.

The Re-Farmer

Disassembled

What a gorgeous day today! We seem to have skipped spring and gone straight to summer, reaching a high of 19C/66F this afternoon.

The weather is not done with us yet, though. We are getting weather alerts again, for tomorrow. More rain is on the way, with the south end of our province expected to get another 2-3cm (under an inch) of rain. With waterways already full and the ground saturated, this could make the flooding situation worse. The municipalities to the north and south of us, which have rivers and large creeks running through them, are also on high water level alerts. Besides the expected rain tomorrow, looking at the 14 day forecast, we’re supposed to get showers almost every other day.

Talk about one extreme to the other! Drought last year, and now this.

I took advantage of the lovely temperatures today and spent some time at the picnic table, taking apart the collapsed canopy tent frame.

There it is! All the bits and pieces. I was even finally able to get the broken leg out of the ground – the hole was full of water, making it much easier.

The frame pieces to the left of the unbroken legs on the table top are all broken. They are still perfectly useable, though. There were a couple of longer pieces that were bent but not broken. I was able to bash on straight again with a brick, but the one you can see in the photo was more stubborn. 😀

The great thing about all these frame pieces is that they’ve got holes in them. We’ll be using the longest ones to support temporary fencing around small garden areas, like the old kitchen garden or an individual block of corn. They all have these handy screw holes in them, which will allow cord to be threaded through them, to provide extra support for any netting they will be holding up. The short pieces can be used to support netting or plastic over individual beds. We have been keeping our small water bottles, and those can be used as caps on the tops, to further support any netting or plastic laid over them.

I’ve also kept all the connectors, with their nuts and bolts, as well as the piece in the middle of the canopy, with the handle that allows for one person to pop the tent up at the highest point. The hub from the peak of the canopy has a crack where one of the nuts went through. I have no idea if we’ll ever find a use for all these connectors, but I’m sure we’ll find one at some point. 😀 I’m also not sure what we can do with the legs. Especially with one of them damaged. If we don’t extend them, though, they can still hold a surface. We might come up with something.

The canopy cover was a total loss and severely torn apart, so that got thrown away.

There are seeds that we can direct sow right now, but we need to protect the beds from critters – like the pair of groundhogs I saw at the feeding station today! I saw one of them come out from the den under the stacked, salvaged boards at the edge of the spruce grove that used to be covered in junk. They would make short work of any new seedlings! Salvaging the pieces from the canopy tent will go a long way in helping protect our garden beds.

Well worth taking the time to disassemble it!

The Re-Farmer