Lovely snow

So the snow that was originally supposed to start this evening and continue on through tomorrow, arrived last night.

The snow was pretty much stopped when I went out to feed the critters. I had to dig out the non-heated water bowls.

Then I had to shovel the path to the feeding station so I could put seeds out for the birds and deer.

Then I kept shoveling.

I am so glad I cleared the paths of the hard packed snow, yesterday. The snow we’ve been having is all light and fluffy, so it made clearing the paths again very easy work!

By the time I reached the garage, the snow was coming down in big, fluffy flakes. We are at a lovely -13C/9F right now. The wind chill is -24C/-11F, but it’s coming from the north, so most of the inner yard is well sheltered. It only got a bit blustery when I reached the bird feeder.

I did most of the paths, but not all of them. Later on, we might break out little Spewie and see what we can do about the driveway. Mostly, we’ll need to clear the end of the driveway, and that will likely need shovels. I don’t think Spewie can handle that! Not only will we have a plow ridge to deal with, but there’s no shelter from the winds there, so it’ll be drifted over and harder packed.

At some point, we’ll be able to set up the snow fencing that we’ve got, rolled up behind the old garden shed. I don’t know where it was used before we moved here, but it would be good to set some up on both sides of the driveway, for both the north and the south winds.

When I came inside and hung my coat on a chair to dry, I discovered this…

I somehow got snow in my hood! πŸ˜€ I didn’t use it because the only way to keep it on is to close up the flaps in front. They go in front of my mouth and I can’t breath, so I keep having to jam it under my chin, which pulls the hood over my eyes. So I wore a cowl, instead. I guess that left my hood to be catch snow! πŸ˜€

I put it in a water bowl we keep near the kitchen for the cats, that happened to be empty. Within minutes, there were three cats checking it out, and a fourth watching because he couldn’t squeeze in. All of them orange. It was funny, except for having to step over them to get into the kitchen! LOL Within minutes, the snow was all gone!

The view from the garage cam, not long after I came in. Looking at the live feed as I write this, the visibility has dropped even more, and those cat paths in the snow are almost completely gone.

I know people in the south of the province probably wouldn’t agree with me, but I am really happy will all this snow. It will be so good for the fields in the spring, and for the water table. Our municipality was among those that declared an agricultural disaster because of the drought, which allowed for farmers to get some financial assistance. So many lost entire crops – again! – and many were struggling with the the decision to cull their animals, because there was no feed to be had. Not that things are any better now. Thanks to the unnecessary, draconian government restrictions, animals aren’t getting to market. Tens of thousands of chickens are being culled. If the various government bodies don’t let up on their medical tyranny, we’re going to have major food shortages, even as farmers are having to throw away food because there’s no way to get it processed and to the stores. They’ll be blaming it on the Wu Flu, but this is the direct consequence of going against the emergency plans all levels of government already had in place.

We’ve long had the dream of being as self sufficient as possible. After moving here, I kinda hoped we would have more time to get there, though!

At least we’ve got our seeds in, and other orders processed for spring shipping. We’re going to be relying on our garden a lot more this year, if things don’t change!

Another reason to be glad for this snow. We are really going to need this moisture.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: starting the first high raised bed

Our glorious weather isn’t going to stick around, and we’ve got garlic ordered, so I wanted to make sure we had at least one prepared bed for them.

This is the empty bed that had yellow onion and shallot sets in it. It was also supposed to have purple kohlrabi, but that never grew. We were planning to rotate our garlic to a different location that did not have alliums in it, but this bed is going to be so drastically changed, it shouldn’t matter.

Also, in the foreground, in the right hand corner, is a single onion that got missed! πŸ˜€

The first order of business was to move out the bits and pieces of logs framing the bed.

One of them had mushrooms attached! πŸ˜€

These are all the logs that were framing the bed. They will be buried at the bottom of the high raised bed. These are already starting to rot, which will be a good thing for our modified hΓΌgelkultur method of filling the bed.

Also, my spell check has hΓΌgelkultur in it!

This bed is so overgrown, you can hardly tell all those logs were removed!

Next began the tedious process of loosening the soil and pulling all the crab grass and weeds out by the roots and rhizomes.

Mostly crab grass.

When we built this bed in the spring, we extended what had been a shorter potato bed, using the Ruth Stout method, the previous year. Basically, potatoes were laid out on the ground and buried under straw mulch. After the potatoes were harvested, the straw was worked into the soil a bit. For the added portion, we just laid down more straw over the grass, as well as the previous year’s bed, then topped it with new garden soil.

There’s a reason we did it that way.

This is as deep as I could get the garden fork into the soil. About half the length of the tines. After that, I was hitting rocks. I’d shift the fork a few inches, and hit more rocks. Shift, hit rocks. Shift, hit rocks. It was insane!

Along with the onion that got missed, I found a shallot, too!

They got set aside on the chicken wire cover over the chard to cure. πŸ˜€

I pulled as many weeds by the roots as I could, but there’s no way I got all of them. The wheelbarrow is mostly crab grass, so this is not something that will go into our compost pile. I dumped it by the edge of the spruce grove, instead.

The high raised beds will be 9 feet long, and this bed is about 14-15 feet long. Originally, I wanted to keep them long like this, but we also want to be able to cover them, and at that length, the covers are very unwieldy. By going shorter, we can potentially add a second row of beds. I had to decide. Should we build the high raised bed at the south end, leaving room for a second row on the north, or start it at the north end, with a potential second row on the south side?

In the end, I decided to build the bed on the south end. It was the shade that decided it for me. If we were to make a second row of beds further south, they would be more shaded by the trees between the garden and the house. If we add a second row on the north side, they will be closer to the short row of trees my mother allowed to self seed among what had been her raspberry patch, but I want to get rid of those trees, as they are causing problems. If nothing else, they won’t be shading any new beds that are closer to them.

That decided, it was time to start digging!

I dragged over a couple of logs to use as a guide, then started removing the loose soil and piling it on the end that will not be part of the bed, pausing to remove more roots and rocks every now and then. I was happy to see how much the straw had broken down – and by how many worms I was finding!

This is it for the day!

I dug down only as far as the rocks, so it’s not very deep. Mostly, I just removed the straw and soil layer we made in the spring, and maybe a couple of inches lower.

The next step will be to level this off and straighten the edges for the logs. I cut the logs a bit longer than 9′ and 4′, to give room to trim the ends straight, but I may not even bother with that. As long as the beds themselves measure no more than 4′ wide on the outside, we’re good. I don’t care if there are bits that stick out a bit further at the corners.

I want to get this bed at least 2 logs high before I start putting the layer of logs on the bottom down. They’re smaller and lighter, but it’ll be easier to put them into place while the walls are a bit lower. The other layers can be added when the bed it as its full height. When it is 3 logs high, I’ll decided if it needs to be higher or not. Then it’s a matter of filling it with layers and getting it ready to plant garlic in. We might be able to plant all three varieties on one bed.

As much as I enjoy the work, it does help me realise how necessary having high raised beds will be. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to continue doing stuff like this. Weeding the bed was the most difficult and painful part. Thankfully, I was able to sit on the scooter for some of it, which helped, but this old body is breaking down. I can still do big stuff, like cutting and breaking down trees and carrying logs, but I’m loosing my fine motor skills on my hands. I drop things a lot more often, the joints are almost always stiff and sore, and that one finger just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Then there is the back pain from bending over to weed. I can’t bend at the knees, since my knees are already shot. Strange that I’m losing my ability to do small, easy things faster than doing heavy manual labour!

I can still crochet, though, so that’s good. I whipped up a couple of hats recently, and plan to work on other small projects. The only problem has been choosing what yarn I can work with. My hands are so rough right now, some types of yarn catch on my fingers while I work! LOL Working with my stash of metallic yarns is out of the question, as well as anything the least bit fuzzy. πŸ˜€

Hopefully, I will be able to continue working on this raised bed tomorrow, after I’ve headed out to do some errands. We hit 27C/81F today, but tomorrow should be a bit cooler, and we’re expected to get rain – possibly even a thunderstorm – over the next couple of days. Looking at the long term forecast, we’ve got another nice, warm week before things start to cool down, and overnight temperatures may result in frost. It’s not until the end of October that we’re looking at the possibility of snow. Of course, looking that far ahead, things are very likely to change, so we shall see what really happens! Until then, I’ll be taking advantage of the mild weather and doing as much work outside as I can!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: salvaging logs, and bonus clean up

Today was dry enough that I could work on cutting up the dead tree that had finally fallen, thanks to recent high winds.

This time, I could use power tools! I used my baby chainsaw (aka: cordless pruner), with it’s 4″ blade, to trim off branches, then a reciprocating saw, with a 12″ blade to cut the measured lengths. Unfortunately, my reciprocating saw is giving up the ghost. It cuts, but it doesn’t stop. Sometimes, it’ll slow down when I release the trigger, but other times it would just keep right on going. I had to unplug it to turn it off!

At the last minute, I changed my mind on the longer lengths I would be cutting. These will be used to make high raised beds in the main garden area, and I had been thinking of building them at 10 feet long. As I was measuring, however, I decided to make them 9 feet long. The boxes we built for the beds where the garlic had been planted are 9′ x 3′. I figured if I did these at 9 feet long, any future cover frames we build will fit on both. I kept the short ends at 4 feet, though. With the width of the wood, the inside of the beds will be roughly 3 feet wide, so any covers would still be interchangeable.

So here we have two 4′ and two 9′ lengths. Enough to make one course of logs to frame a high raised bed.

By the time I cut these, the rest of the tree was light enough that I could drag it closer to cut a couple more pieces.

That gave me another 9′ and another 4′ piece. At the top of the long pieces is the remaining top of the tree, which is about 7 or 8 feet. I set that aside for potential future use. When I was trimming the branches off, I found another 6 or 7 feet of the top had broken off and was dangling from a nearby tree. With three 9′ lengths, three 4′ lengths, plus another, say, 7 feet of trunk, and 6 feet for the top that broke off, we’re looking at a tree trunk that was roughly 52 feet. Add in the roughly 3 feet of stump left behind, we’re looking at a dead tree that was about 55 feet tall when I cut it down.

The one that’s still stuck on another tree was a bit taller.

At this point, I had salvaged logs to do 1 1/2 courses to build a raised garden bed. I needed two more pieces.

I didn’t have to cut down another tree, though. I still had the trunk of the dead tree I’d cut down and used the stump to make a bench.

After I finished trimming the branches, the trunk was eventually rolled up against the patch on the right, where there is a currant bush, chokecherry tree, raspberries, some flowers and a crab apple tree that died this spring. So after dragging/carrying the first pieces over to where the garden bed will be built, I cut a couple more lengths from this tree trunk, then set the remaining top piece aside with the top of the other tree, for potential future use.

You can see that the new raised bed will be quite a bit shorter than the low raised beds we had this year. Those are about 13 feet long. We will be losing planting space, but we should also be able to plant more densely, once they are at a more accessible height. For now, I want to make these at least 3 logs high, then see how they work. I expect to finish them off at 4 logs high.

Which would translate to roughly 3 or 4 trees to harvest, per bed. In this area, there are six low raised beds that will be converted to high raised beds, so that means as many as 12 trees to replace all the low raised beds with high raised beds.

Considering that we have more than 20 dead trees that need to be cut down, having enough logs won’t be a problem, even if some of them turn out to be too rotten to use. Some of those trees are thicker and taller than the two I used today, so I’ll probably need even fewer. With the new beds being several feet shorter than the current beds, we could potentially have a double row of beds. That will depend on the space for paths. These are meant to be accessible raised beds, with room for a walker or wheelchair in between, so the paths need to be 4′ wide.

The one thing we do have is the luxury of space. While we are starting with raised beds in this area we are already gardening in, as time goes by we will be adding more beds in this area. Not a lot more, though, as there are too many tall trees on the south side casting shadows. The plan is to build more permanent raised beds in the outer yard, where they will get full sun.

But that is for after we’ve done a lot more logging of dead trees in the spruce grove!

Once the last of the logs were dragged over, I took advantage of having the tools handy and finally took down the dead crab apple tree.

For this job, I was able to use the baby chain saw, and didn’t need anything else. I love that thing!

In the photo, you can somewhat see where the bark as split off the trunk at the bottom. This tree had started to get leaves in the spring, but then just died off, and seeing that damage sure explains why. The tree itself was showing signs of disease, even last year, so all this wood is for burning, not the chipping piles. I noticed that even the raspberry plants near it were also showing signs of disease, so what we will likely have to do is remove any plants growing around the tree and not plant anything at all here for a few years. That should be time enough for whatever disease has gotten into the soil to die off.

Once cutting and clearing away to the base, I could see that this tree was actually the sucker of a larger tree that had died, long ago! The inside of the old stump was so rotted out, I could brush it aside with my hands.

I kept cutting and breaking up bits and pieces for a while, but what I will ultimately do is bring a small metal ring I found and have been using as a portable fire ring, and light a fire on top of the remains of the tree. That will prevent any suckers from trying to start growing and, hopefully, sterilize the soil of whatever disease has gotten into it, at least a bit.

It was good to finally get this cleared up. There are a few other dead and dying crab apple trees that will need to be cleaned up, too. Over time, once enough time has passed, I hope to replace them with other fruit trees that are more disease resistant. This spot, however, will not get anything tall planted in it. There are already too many tall trees shading the area. An awful lot of garden space was lost to shade because my parents planted so many new trees on the south side of the garden, instead of the north! Most frustrating is that they also planted them too close together, so none of them thrived, and quite a few died. I removed a lot of these when I cleaned up the maple grove, our first summer here, but I think I will have to take out an entire row of crab apple trees I discovered in the process. They simply aren’t getting enough light to bloom and produce, even after I cleaned the area up. That’s not a priority right now, though.

But I digress!

I’m happy to have gotten as much done as I did today. Tomorrow, the girls and I have an outing with my mother planned, so we won’t be able to get more done then. I’ll have to use Sunday to take down another tree and hopefully get enough wood to start on the first permanent high raised bed before winter. With several days of rain predicted next week, we shall see how far we will be able to get on that!

The Re-Farmer

I was hoping to avoid that

After giving my hips a chance to recover, it was time for more manual labour today!

Today, I decided to do a bit more cleanup around the junk pile, so I could access some dead trees that need to be taken down.

Here is how it looked before I started.

We have our ongoing battle with the spirea that’s choking everything out, so I wanted to pull them up by the roots as much as possible.

Some of them had roots so long, they started going under things. I pushed them aside after a certain point, so I could focus on clearing around three specific dead trees.

The thistles were much more of a problem. The thorns go right through my work gloves!

I did leave on thing behind, besides some wildflowers.

There was a little Saskatoon bush, at the base of one of the trees, and it’s actually trying to produce berries! Weather willing, the berries you see will turn a deep, dark purple, and look a bit like blueberries.

Once the area was cleared of tripping hazards, I started taking down the first tree, using a bucksaw. Because of where these trees are, I tried to do it in such a way that it would fall in a space between some other spruces. I didn’t want it falling towards the open yard, because then it might land on the beet bed or compost pile, or some Saskatoon bushes and an elm tree we want to keep.

It almost worked.

It fell too far to the south, and got hung up on another dead tree, that’s right nest to a still live one.

I was able to wrap some rope around the trunk and get it off the stump, but it would not come loose from the dead tree it was entangled in.

So I moved on to the next tree. This time, it actually fell into the gap I wanted it to fall into.

It still got hung up! I had hoped these trees would be heavy enough that the dead branches would break and let them fall to the ground, but apparently, they are still quite strong.

On the plus side, I was very pleased with what I saw after cutting them down.

The wood is nice and solid, with no sign of rot or ant damage. This is very encouraging, because I want to use the logs. These nice, solid stumps will later be used to make seats and tables.

Here is how it looked when I stopped for the day. I did try to use the rope and our van to try and get that first tree loose from the dead tree it’s hooked up on, but the rope kept breaking. We don’t have any stronger rope. If we’re going to need to use the van anyhow, I will pick up some sturdy rope and hook it up to near the base of the trunks, and pull the entire trees out into the yard, where we will break them down.

Since the wood is in such good shape, these will be used to make the high raised beds we will be building in the main garden area, where we currently have the low raised beds we’d planted spinach, onions and carrots in. I’m thinking of cutting the logs into 10 ft and 4 ft lengths, and I figure it will take about 4 logs to get the accessible height we are after, though of course, that will depend on how big the individual trees are. We don’t have a lot of time left, if we want to get these ready for next year. I’m hoping to get at least a couple built for next year. By using whole logs like this, we won’t have any concerns about the sides bowing out under the weight of the layers of wood, compostable materials and soil they will be filled with.

Once these dead trees closer to the edge of the spruce grove are down, we’ll be able to feel the other ones towards the yard, and there will be no other trees for them to get hung up on!

Once all the dead trees in this corner are down, and the area is cleaned up, we will be able to convert the trunks into seating and surfaces. Then we can start planting food trees that need a protected microclimate. I will be testing the soil, and if the acidity from all those decades of spruce needles is high enough, I hope to be able to plant blueberries. We do still want to grow a mulberry tree, since the one we got this spring got killed off by that one cold night in May, and it was in here that we originally intended to plant it. I think, this time, we will try and get a Canadian variety we found out about, that is increasingly endangered. We will still need the microclimate for it, but if we can help keep a variety at risk going, that’s what we prefer to do, if we can.

There are a lot more dead trees further to the east and around to the south, inside the spruce grove. Some will also have their trunks converted to seating, but as we go further into the grove, I want to start transplanting more spruces into the spruce grove! πŸ™‚

While we are getting rid of the spirea, we will be leaving the wild roses and red bark dogwood as underbrush. I will probably take out most of the chokecherries I’m finding in here, as there are so many, to make room for the Saskatoons to spread. We will also be transplanting new spruces in here, though more strategically. Lots to do, but I am really looking forward to when we have a lovely little sanctuary in here, where we can sit and enjoy the outdoors, somewhat protected from the elements by the trees. πŸ™‚

For now, however, I’m going to get some tweezers, and get that thistle thorn that got through my gloves!

The Re-Farmer

So tired, but I got it done!

I love having so much space around the house. I really do! But taking care of it is a … well… you know…

After all this rain, I got mowing done, but never had the chance to do the week trimming around the edges. The lawn needs mowing again already, even without more rain, which is a good sign. This time, I decided to do the trimming, first.

I started yesterday.

I got all the areas on the south side of the house, particularly around the kibble house, cat shelter, well cap and other things in front of the sun room that is hard to get to even with a push mower.

Then I went around the edges in the front yard, including the sidewalk to the small gate, which has sections tree roots have pushed upwards high enough the mower can’t go over anymore, without hitting it.

Doing the south yard includes trimming around the bed the haskaps are in, the bed where the white lilacs are, in between or around various trees, around the asparagus bed, around the potatoes in their bags, around the storage house on two sides, and the outside of the chain link fence. With pauses to McGyver a fix on the chain link vehicle gate that got backed into by our vandal a couple of years ago that really needs its hinges replaced, and to finally drag out some bricks and rocks from under one of the lilacs growing against the storage house.

Then the east yard got trimmed, including as much as I could into the edge of the spruce grove that has been cleared. There’s only so far I can go into there with the trimmer, as I need to get in there with the lopper to get the trees that are trying to grow back. There is a space between the house and where more lilacs and the cherry trees we are keeping, with the now-gone bird houses at either end, that is easier to use the trimmer on instead of trying to maneuver the push mower. Driving through with the riding mower is a bit tight, with the concrete stairs in the middle of the house. I also used the trimmer in an area we’ve been slowly clearing to access into the spruce grove, where we will eventually be building the cordwood shed that will be an outdoor bathroom, but for now will be access to the largest group of dead trees we need to cut down.

For the west yard, I just did the edge of the old kitchen garden retaining wall. The grass in the west yard is so sparse, I probably won’t mow it at all.

By the time all that was done, so was I, so I stopped for the night.

Today, I finished the trimming.

Sort of.

I finished the edges in the north yard, then worked around all the low raised beds in the main garden area. The ones that the onions were in have been left alone, and I’ve given up trying to weed the decimated carrot bed (which, amazingly, has recovering carrots in it!), and the paths in between have gotten so overgrown, it was getting hard to see the beds at all. That took a while to get done! While I was at it, I trimmed in between the raspberries as much as I could. Then I dragged the trimmer over to the Crespo squash and the Montana Morado corn. With the squash, I could only trim around the barriers we’ve put around it. It is recovering amazingly well, which is kind of sad, since there isn’t enough growing season left for them to develop any squash. As for the corn, I used the trimmer in between each row, being careful not to take out any of the peas that are growing with the corn, but falling into the paths. For the longer ones, I tried to get them to grow up the corn stalk they are closest to. I found quite a few pea plants that are blooming!

This area is the “sort of” part. It is so rough, the trimmer is the best way to cut the grass and weeds. Not today, though.

Then it was time to drag the trimmer over to the far garden beds.

Did I mention this is an electric trimmer?

Just as we need 300 feet of hose to reach the furthest areas of these beds, I needed 300 feet of extension cords. That allowed me to trim around the squash tunnel, most of the Dorinny corn and the transplanted Hopi Black Dye sunflowers beside them. The peas planted among the Dorinny corn are doing pretty good, too. I trimmed around the green pea trellises, too, even though there are no longer any peas growing there. Of course the purple peas and the three bean beds got done. It looks like I will be picking beans tomorrow. πŸ™‚

Then the corn and sunflower blocks got done, which meant going in between every row with the trimmer (there is just no way to weed this area anymore), again being careful not to take out any of the pea plants. Then the summer squash got done, and finally all the crap apple trees.

You know those cartoons, where a character is going through a spooky forest, and the tree branches turn into hands that clutch and grab? That’s what crab apples trees do. It’s almost impossible to walk under them without getting snagged! Thank goodness I was wearing my cap. The last time I worked under them and forgot to wear one, I found myself having to untangle branches from my hair. There is just something weird about how these apple branches catch onto everything!!

What I didn’t even try to do, besides skipping the old garden area by the purple corn and Crespo squash, is anything in the maple grove. Once again, it is so sparse, I will likely skip it.

I look forward to when the areas between the trees are filled with moss, flowers and other lawn replacements we are working towards.

Anyhow. That was it for the day!

The mowing will wait until tomorrow.

Until then, the girls are watering the garden beds for me right now. This is the first time they’ve needed to be watering since we finally got rain. That’s the longest time we’ve been able to go without watering, all summer.

The Re-Farmer

A much better day today, and what will I do with these?

After yesterday being such a crappy day, I’m happy to say that today was much improved!

This morning, I found several bright bits of sunshine in the garden.

Several of our summer squash blossoms are now fully open! There are just male flowers right now, so it’s still too early to expect baby squash, but it’s still very exciting to see!

The summer squash was not the only thing in bloom.

Some irises in the flower garden outside the living room window started blooming today. These have been here for as long as I can remember, coming back year after year, decade after decade. They may well have originally been planted here before I was even born.

We got the trip to the smaller city that I meant to do yesterday. One of our stops was to Canadian Tire, where I was finally able to find the air filter I needed for the push mower. After double checking exactly what I was looking for, I realized that the last couple of times we’d looked for a filter, this type wasn’t in stock at all, so I was happy to find one.

We also made a stop at the nearby Walmart. We ran out of kibble this morning, and had a few other things we needed to pick up. Thankfully, we were able to get everything on the list, and still stayed under budget – something we couldn’t have done if we’d had to buy in town.

One of the other things we needed to get was more gas for the lawnmowers, so pretty much as soon as we got home, I changed the air filter on the push mower, and was finally able to finish most of the mowing.

I had started to move along the driveway with the riding mower, a couple of days ago, but there was no way I could use the riding mower to do the area in front of the barn. This is the first time this area has been mowed this year, and it was tall enough to make hay! I’ll go back with a rake and the wagon to pick up clippings for mulch. There was no way I was going to use the bag. I’d have needed to stop to empty it so often, I would never have been able to finish it all in one evening. As it is, there is still another area that needs to be done, but it’s not used at much. At least now, we don’t have to wade through knee high grass to get to the barn and shed!

I also finally got to cut the main garden area, that is too rough to use the riding mower on. Frankly, found myself thinking I maybe should have used the weed trimmer over all of it, but at the highest setting, the push mower was able to do the job.

I had done most of this area with the riding mower; the strip along the right was done with the push mower; you can tell by the darker green, because I had the mower set so much higher. This strip had been plowed, so there are still furrows. If I wanted to get the rest, among those trees, I’d have to use the weed trimmer.

It’s just a guess, but I’m pretty sure where I was standing to take the photo is where the telephone lines are buried. A thing to keep in mind when we plant the trees we are planning on.

This photo was taken from the same spot, facing the other way.

Not much left of that pile of garden soil!

Part of this section was also plowed. You can see the gate in the back, where the tractor and plow would have entered. The plow was dropped starting along the trees on the right. Why there, I have no idea. There hasn’t been garden there since I was a babe. My parents did try gardening here, when they first moved the garden closer to the house (it used to be way out by the car graveyard, when my parents first moved out here). As I child, I remember when the area that has the trees right, now, was a cabbage patch. The area the dirt pile is on now was no longer being used by then. I remember asking my mother why they stopped using this section, and she told me it was too rocky.

Considering how many rocks are everywhere else, that’s saying a lot! πŸ˜€

Anyhow, I still wonder why the plowing was starting that far back, but then, my sister thinks the person who did it was drunk at the time, so who knows? The furrows mean it’s another area for the push mower, though the section to the right is flat enough for the riding mower.

I was even able to do some mowing among the trees, to open up some of the paths. The plants at the bottom of the dead spruce tree in the left foreground bloom beautifully, so I’m making sure to leave them be. I’ll have to do the rest of the area around the trees with the weed trimmer.

Mid term goal is to plant low growing ground covers that we can walk on in the paths, while in between the trees will be a combination of ground cover and flowers, with one exception. The morel mushroom spawn my husband got for me for Christmas will be “planted” under one of the elms in the maple grove. He also got giant puffball spawn for me, too, but they like to grow among grass, not under any particular type of tree. I still haven’t quite decided what area I want to inoculate with those, yet. Just somewhere we won’t be going over with the mower.

That is not the only thing I have to figure out where to put. We also have these.

These are the Jiffy pellets we planted the Hopi Black Dye sunflowers in, some 2 months ago. The one that had sprouted got transplanted into the old kitchen garden. When a second one suddenly sprouted, almost a week later, I transplanted it a short distance away.

That made me curious enough to look at the rest of the pellets. I haven’t been watering the tray they were in, but when I lifted some of them up, I saw roots! No sprouts, just roots.

So I moved them all onto one of the baking sheets we got to hold the Solo cups we were using to start seeds, and added water.

Almost overnight, more started to sprout.

Currently, there are 7 new sprouts!

Why did it take these so long to sprout? Especially when the ones that were direct sown, in far less ideal conditions, sprouted so quickly??

And what will we do with them? At this point, I don’t think there’s enough growing season for them to fully mature, but now that they’re finally germinating, I don’t want to just toss them. Also, there’s no more room for sunflowers in the old kitchen garden, and the space they would have gone into in the garden got the Mongolian Giants transplanted into it, since these hadn’t sprouted at all at the time, and we thought they were a lost cause.

I think we will transplant them near the Dorinny corn. That wicked frost we had in late May didn’t seem to affect the corn sprouts at the time, but then they disappeared. They are supposed to be a Canadian frost-hardy hybrid, but that was an unusually cold night. While they looked unharmed the next morning, I guess it took a couple of days for the damage to become visible. However, the other corn seeds that hadn’t geminated yet came up soon after, so we will still have Dorinny corn, but it also means we have entire rows in the block with only one or two corn plants in them. I figure, we can make use of the empty space and transplant these sunflowers into them. Sure, they may not reach full maturity, but at least they’ll have a chance. Who knows. We might have a long and mild fall.

Then there are these.

These are the pink celery that should have been started indoors much earlier. They’ll eventually go into a container (or two?), so we can keep them outdoors for most of the growing season, then try using the sun room as a green house to extend their growing season though late fall.

Assuming they survive being transplanted. We’ll see.

All in all, it’s been a really good day. I finally got things done that kept getting delayed, I got to see the kittens, we had a fabulous supper of butter chicken one daughter made while I was mowing, and there’s panna cotta setting in the fridge, made by my other daughter. And tomorrow, we will be celebrating Father’s Day and my younger daughter’s birthday, early, with a pizza night. πŸ™‚

I’m looking forward to a great weekend!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: corn, gourds, squash and melon transplants DONE!!

Yes!!!!! We managed to finish transplanting tonight!

I thought we might have to move beyond the squash tunnel, but since these will be trained to climb, we were able to plant them closer together than we normally would, and they all fit. Also, I was sure we had the little pumpkins to transplant. I was wrong. None of them germinated. We didn’t plant many to begin with, but I’d hoped to have at least one!

At the far end of the squash tunnel, we have 4 luffa vines on one side, and 3 dancing gourd on the other. Next to them are the two varieties of winter squash, and the two varieties of melon.

There are a lot more melons than anything else (I REALLY love melon!), and that’s even with several cups that never germinated. There are some cups with summer squash in them that never germinated, either, which is why we have only 15 transplants. We all really love summer squash, so we would have enjoyed more, but it’s still a bit more than we had last year.

Now that the squash tunnel’s transplants are in, they, and the summer squash, will be getting a mulch of straw as soon as we are able to get back to it. Then I’ve got to get those bottom cross pieces in, so we can attach the mesh for them to climb.

That done, it was time to finish the new corn block. I’d put a fairly deep layer of grass clippings down, first, so I wanted to put a fairly deep layer of soil. Plus, the garden soil tested high in nitrogen, which corn uses a lot of, so I wanted to make sure it had at least that for the transplants to start in.

After the soil was in place, I made a trench in each row to plant into, then thoroughly watered the trench with water from the rain barrel.

Doing the actual transplanting was rather cringe worthy. I keep hearing from others that corn doesn’t handle being transplanted well, their roots don’t like to be disturbed, and so on. At the same time, I have heard from zone 3 gardeners that only start corn from transplants and never had an issue. Still, I really would have loved for the toilet paper tube plan to have worked. I don’t know of anyone who has tried to grow Montana Morado in Canada, never mind in our province, nor can I find anything online about it, so this is all completely experimental.

The biggest, healthiest looking corn plants tended to be the ones were all 4 seeds in the cups germinated. Except for when they were taken outside to be hardened off, the cups with their drainage holes were all in a bin that had water on the bottom, so they could take up water from below. Which means that there were strong roots at the bottom of the cups, and with anything more than 2 plants in a cup, that meant having to tear the roots apart to separate them.

I am really, really hoping they survived this.

They are, however, all in! I even managed to get some in the little half row I wasn’t sure if I’d be using. I went ahead and planted the little ones, too. Considering they tended to be a single plant per cup, they might actually end up doing better!

Also, the flash makes it look darker than it actually was. I did still have enough light to see what I was doing.

After they were transplanted, I gave them a gentle watering with the hose. It was amusing to see a flashlight coming through the increasing darkness. My daughters hadn’t realized I’d stayed out to finish transplanting the corn, and one of them came out to check on me. πŸ˜€ Which was handy, because that meant I had help putting things away. The washing of the cups and trays, however, will wait until tomorrow!

The only thing left to do with the corn is put a mulch in the paths between the rows. More to keep the new soil in place while watering than anything else.

Now that this is done, the girls and I can head into the city tomorrow, and I won’t be angsting over getting the transplants in the whole time we’re out! πŸ˜€

I’m tired and in a world of hurt – and really, really appreciating having my husband’s bath chair to use in the shower! – but I am very happy. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: bean beds ready

Temperatures were supposed to cool down today. I suppose they did, since we didn’t reach 30C/86F , however as I write things – at almost 7:30pm – the temperatures have dropped to 25C/77F, from 27C/81F, earlier. :-/ At least we did get a bit of rain early this afternoon; between that and the wind, it was enough that our seedlings that are being hardened off had to be brought back indoors. Still not the thundershowers we were promised. Those have been pushed back to the end of the week.

Then the sky cleared, and the heat returned. *sigh*

The crazy thing is, the weather system that’s coming our way has already brought snow and overnight temperatures of -5C/23F in other areas. Other zone 3 gardeners in the groups I’m in have been scrambling to save their gardens. Meanwhile, our long range forecast now goes as far as June 2 – our last frost date – which has an overnight low of 12C. The lowest overnight low before then is 5C/41F, an increase since the last time I looked.

Well, no matter. Today, we had to work on the beds for the beans, regardless of the heat. They can be planted any time now, since they won’t sprout until after our last frost date, so they should be safe.

We have three areas marked off at 3′ x 20′ (just under 1m x just over 6m). We’ve managed to scrounge enough cardboard to line one of the areas, plus a little bit more. The rest was covered with a layer of grass clippings, all of which was watered down before we started adding soil.

We will be planting double rows of bush beans in each strip. The trench in the middle is to help hold water. It turns out we can just manage to water even the furthest strip with the hose, so we won’t be needing to use watering cans from the rain barrel for these. Though we marked off 3′ wide strips, the soil is only about 2′ wide (about half a meter).

I’m tempted to go out and sow the beans now! I will wait until the morning, though.

The next area we need to work on is where the sweet corn and sunflowers will be going, which is to the left of the bean beds in the above photo. This is going to be the farthest we’ve had to haul soil, so far, and I’m still not even sure how we need to space things. We started half the sunflowers indoors, and none of the purple sunflowers have germinated yet. Only the Mongolian giants. Of the packets we will be direct sowing, neither have a lot of seeds in them (which is why I’d ordered two of each). So the areas needed for the sunflowers will be smaller. The packets of corn seeds, however, have plenty in them, so we’ll be looking at blocks at least the same size as the one the Dorinny corn is planted in, which is 20′ long by about 14′ wide (about 6m x 4 1/2m).

We have some calculating to do.

Either way, that’s a lot of soil that will need to be moved, and we don’t want to waste any of it. We don’t even have anything to put under the soil as a barrier and amendment anymore; not in any useful quantities.

Ah, well. We’ll work it out!

Meanwhile, on a completely different topic, while we were working in the garden, I got an email notification from a family member. It had a link to a news article. Someone in our little hamlet won a Lotto jackpot! I read the article and realized I know them! (The article only mentioned the husband’s name, and it’s his wife that I know from years ago.) I am so incredibly happy for them! It couldn’t have gone to a more deserving family! It’s also wonderful to hear that someone local has had such a great blessing.

Maybe I should start buying lottery tickets again? πŸ˜€

But I digress.

Time to go back to figuring out our corn and sunflower area!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: old kitchen garden, part two

Part One here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in good time. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: got them done, thanks to a new “toy”

I was going to have to head into town this afternoon, so I made sure to get out and continue working on the garden beds as early as I could.

I didn’t think to take a picture until after I’d hauled loads of soil onto one of the beds. Before I started on the soil, I made sure to soak down all the straw again.

Note the pile of soil in the background for later. πŸ˜‰

After leveling the soil and wetting it down, I decided to go through the piles of wood from when we had the power lines and roof cleared and lay the thinner pieces I could find around the bed. We weren’t going to do that originally, but we paid for that soil; I didn’t want to end up walking on it, and it was starting to run down the sides with the watering.

Filling this bed took at least a dozen wheelbarrow loads of soil, and it took me all morning. Which is when I threw in the towel. There was no way we could keep this up. We would just have to bite the bullet, go through the budget, and see what we could afford for a new wheelbarrow. I checked online and a local hardware store had two options in our budget in stock. So one of my daughters and I headed into town and made our first stop at the hardware store.

When I came in, I went straight to a clerk. When I told them I’d looked online and found something it said they had in stock, the clerks just started shaking their heads, saying that didn’t mean they actually did! LOL I had the link on my phone and read off about the one I hoped to get. Again, I just got head shaking! They had no wheelbarrows at all. Then they suggested I go to the place were I got my baby chainsaw. The two businesses are linked. The hardware store’s building is just too small to have much inventory, so for a lot of the bigger things, it’s all at this other place.

So we went there, and they had only 3 wheelbarrows in stock, in 2 sizes! I got the bigger one, at 5 cubic feet. It was smaller than the one I hoped to get, but it was still bigger than what we had, and 2/3rds the price of what I had in mind, so I wasn’t going to complain!

Here’s our new toy, next to the little wheelbarrow we’ve been using the most.

When we moved here, we found two wheelbarrows kicking around. This is the problem with the little red one we’ve been using the most.

It looks like someone jerry rigged a wheel that’s the wrong size. The axle is bent. It continually loosens, but if it’s tightened too much, it doesn’t turn as well because of the bent axle. Basically, it makes hauling the soil much, much more strenuous than it should be!

It’s been used so much, the bottoms of the legs are worn away!

It’s still sound, overall, so I’m thinking we could probably replace the wheel assembly and get more use out of it.

The other, larger wheelbarrow is not worth fixing.

The barrow has holes in the bottom, and the end is bent up. The metal is very thin, too. Though larger, it can’t handle as much soil as the little one.

You can see one of the holes in this picture, too! πŸ˜€ I haven’t been able to tighten this wheel, as it’s too rusted. I have a spray I can use to loosen it up, but it’s really not worthy the time and effort. Structurally, the frame on this one is a lot weaker, too. It’s fine if we want to use it to haul straw or something, but using it to haul soil was really pushing it’s capabilities!

In starting the next bed, I put logs around the sides before I started hauling soil. It made it more awkward to dump the soil, but it worked out better. Here is how it looked when done, but before being wet down.

I was having a hard time finding shorter logs for the ends, and ended up using the comically large piece of maple. πŸ˜€

Finishing this bed went SO much faster than the one next to it! What a difference it made to have a wheelbarrow with a good wheel on it! πŸ˜€ Though I didn’t fill it completely with each load, it still took fewer trips to fill the bed.

That done, we put logs around the last two beds that needed soil. By then, we were rifling through 3 different piles of logs, trying to find suitable pieces. Most were cut to about the same length, but we were running out of the thinner ones. Finding short ones for the ends took a bit of creativity. We do actually have a whole stack of shorter ones, but they are all way too big around.

Once we managed to find enough logs to frame the beds, we started adding the soil.

And they’re done!!! Six beds, ready for planting!

We’ll probably add logs around the first two, at some point.

Notice the pile of soil in the background?

We haven’t used half the pile yet, but we’re pretty close! I’m rather please with how much is left!

Now that these beds are done, there are no others that need to have such a deep layer of soil added over such a wide area. I did measure the beds, and they are roughly 3 – 3 1/2 ft wide by about 15 ft long. (About 1m x 4.5m) Plus the width of the logs, which is variable. When we build our high raised beds, Hugelkultur style, those logs will be on the bottom of the beds. πŸ™‚ With the dimensions we have now, the permanent beds will be pretty much exactly where the current beds are.

The weather forecasts have been changing pretty much every day, with the predicted warm days being pushed further and further back. We should still be able to plant something in these beds right away, though.

Our onion starts are still in the process of hardening off.

I found a way to keep them away from the cats. We still have the broken frame of my daughter’s market tent (if we could replace the piece that broke, I would be very happy, as it was a very excellent tent), so I used that to hold the puck board cut to cover the old basement window over the winter. The outside cats have shown no interest in the set up.

Those are the last of the onions we grew from seed; I’m hoping we’ll still have some salvageable red bunching onions. While in town today, I noticed onion sets and checked them out, and was very happy to find sets for shallots! It’s only a dozen per pack (I got 2 packs), but that’s okay.

Along with the transplants, we now have sets for the shallots and yellow onions, with sets for red onions to arrive in the mail this week. Once they’re in, the transplants should be hardened off enough, and we can plant all our onions.

Now that these beds are done, the only area we need to work on for things that need to be planted right away is the old kitchen garden. We’ll be using the soil from the other pile. While the one in the old garden area is closer, it would require going over the roughest part of the crappy plow job, and through the maple grove. The distance to the other pile is all nice and flat, with only a gate to go through. I’ll take a longer, smooth trip over a shorter, bumpy one, any day!

But that is a job for tomorrow!

The Re-Farmer