Clean up: trees in the old garden

We had such a lovely day today, even with fairly high winds, that I couldn’t resist going outside and doing a bit of clean up. This time, I decided to work in the old garden area.

As we clean up around the property, there is one thing I find myself struggling with that I did not expect.


In the decades I was away, my parents slowly reduced the size of their gardening, which made perfect sense. Unfortunately, at the same time, they planted trees. Poorly placed trees, many of which I am now having to cut down for various reasons, while trying to save as many as I can. At the same time, they also allowed self sown trees to grow where they really shouldn’t have. Some of them now need to be removed because they are causing damage. Others… well. Let me show you.

This is the before picture.

My mother had a row of raspberry bushes here. Elms and maples had self-sown among them. When my mother transplanted the raspberries (into an area that’s full shade!), she left the self-sown saplings. For a “wind break” she told me. The garden used to extend another 6 feet or so to the north. As they are now, the trees take up a space about 10-12 ft (3-3.6m) wide, and about 100 ft (30.5m) long.

That’s a lot of square feet of full sun garden space that can no longer be used.

Between these and the shade created by the trees they’d planted into the garden area on the south side, huge amounts of garden space have been taken out of production. Space that’s the closest to the house and water.

When I brought up taking them out and reclaiming the garden space, my mother was adamant that they not be touched. Apparently, if we take them out, we won’t have any wind break anymore or something, even though there are plenty of other trees and the lilac hedge to shelter us from Northern winds. :-/

Well, we’re not in a position to actively remove the trees quite yet, though the arborists recommended taking them out while they’re still small enough to be pulled out by the roots with a tractor. While trying to garden near these on one side, and tend the lawn on the other, I figured the least that should be done is to trim and clear them.

Yes, I know. This is probably the worst time of year to be trimming trees, but these are not trees we plan to save. They’ll do just fine, though. In fact, they’ll probably thrive. :-/

Starting at the end I took the photo at, I worked at it using both the baby chainsaw (aka: cordless pruner) and the long handled pruners. Loppers, I think they’re actually called. I used those quite a bit, because the branches and suckers were so dense, I couldn’t get in with the baby chainsaw to cut where I needed to. Which is fine. It reserved battery power for the pieces too large for the loppers. I got about 1 1/2 hours in before the battery died, then I continued for another half hour or so with the loppers.

Here is how it looks now.

That log that is now visible marks the corner of the mulched area we gardened in last year. I cleared until just past that log.

This is my branch pile.

I at first tried to trim the larger pieces and set them aside for potential use later, but that was taking up too much time, so I just added to the pile. When it’s time to deal with the pile, it will be easier to use hand pruners to trim any larger branches that might be usable for other things. The smallest pieces will go onto a chipping pile.

I did use pruning paint on the cut ends of the trees, though the maples were pouring so much sap, a lot of it was washed away! The elm sap isn’t running yet.

For all my mother’s admonitions to leave the trees alone, I found evidence that I was not the first to try cutting these away. In fact, some of what I found were growing out of stumps. Someone had tried cutting them down, and they grew back.

I also found this little group.

Three elms growing into each other! We couldn’t see this until I cleared things away. In fact, I couldn’t stand in the spots I was in to take the photos, either.

I worked on a maple just past this group of elms and found myself pulling out large strands of vines as well. The rest of the section has more of these vines. My mother had planted them (not here!) years ago, not realizing they were invasive. Now they’re spreading all over, and I’ve found at least a couple of trees that have been killed by them. So I stopped to continue another day, since more time will need to be spent pulling up these vines, which will need to be burned.

The irony of pulling up vines that are killing trees we plan to get eventually get rid of is not lost on me!

By the time I’m done with these, we should be able to walk through and around the trees without having to fight branches. I’ll even be able to mow past them without branches pulling off my hat!

Hopefully, their roots won’t make gardening near them too much of an issue. Eventually, we do plan to build some permanent, high raised beds in this area closer to the house, so it won’t be an issue for long. When we build the permanent garden beds to the south of the house, that will be where we will focus more on things that take longer to mature and get harvested in the fall, while areas closer to the house will be more kitchen garden type things that mature quickly, or have a continuous harvest.

Little by little, it’s getting done! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Wood carving: testing the new gouge

Lo and behold, I had an open day today! Which means I finally had the chance to do a bit of wood carving and test out the wood gouge I got a month ago.

I had a particular piece of maple from clearing behind the pump shack that I wanted to use. After looking at ideas for a while, I decided to make an olive server. Something along the lines of this.

It took me about 5 or 6 hours, but I got it done! 😀

Photo heavy post ahead! 😀

Here is what I started with.

This is about half the length of the original piece. The length was decided by a bend in the wood. 🙂

I now needed to create a slightly flat bottom, and take about 1/3 off the opposite side to create the top of the bowl.

I used what tools I had on hand, which was this beast of a knife.

We’ve dragged this thing around for many moves! I’ll have to get my husband to tell the story behind it. 😀 It turned out to be perfect for the job. Especially that little sunken in part of the blade, near the handle. It was the perfect width to set at an end of the wood, then I hammered it with a rubber mallet to split off the pieces I needed to remove

Then I used it as draw knife to debark it!

Once that was done, I made a rough sketch on the wood.

The narrower end is where I placed the handle, and I decided to leave a little bit of a “foot” for an extra touch of stability.

Before I started carving, though, I decided I should try and use my new angle grinder to level off the flat parts, take off excess wood, and maybe even shape that handle.

It came with 2 metal grinding wheels. Not wood.

I tested it anyhow, just to get to know the machine. All it really did was leave some marks in the wood. :-/ Ah, well!

Finally, it was time to use the gouge!

This thing is awesome! Oh, my goodness, it cut through the maple like nothing. I could also switch hands with it. I can use my right hand, but I am left dominant. The sloyd knife from my carving kit is for righties. I can use it with my left hand, but it takes some doing, and I still need to use my right hand to control the blade. I did use the sloyd knife a bit, to give my hands a break, since it is held in a completely different way. As I got deeper, though, it just wasn’t possible to use the sloyd knife any more.

Which is exactly why I wanted the gouge!

As I went deeper, I hit the middle heart wood, and discovered it was rotten!

This would not be an issue for the bowl part of the server, since I would be cutting it out completely, but would it affect the handle or the end?

The bowl portion is done!

Along with the gouge, I used carving knives to thin the wood at the top edges, which made it easier to set the gouge to go deeper.

You can see a spot of discoloration at the near end of the bowl. That’s the heartwood. It’s really small, so I’m hoping it won’t be an issue.

The next thing to do was remove excess wood to shape the outside.

I was going to use my coping saw for the handle part, but the darn thing keeps trying to spin on me. So I used a different hand saw, and a chisel to take off the wood under the handle. I almost took off a bit too much, though. !!

The next several hours were spent using carving blades to shape the handle and ends, and smooth out the inside. The handle and the ends were a real pain to work on!

Then it was finally time to sand.

Sanding the inside of the bowl was also a real pain! Getting the curved ends smooth was the worst of it, but sanding the inside in general was really awkward. Still, working my way through ever finer grits of sandpaper, I finally got it to where I was happy with it. It’s a good thing I wanted to keep some of the “rustic” texture in there!

Here it is, all sanded.

It was worth the fight! 😀 I am quite happy with it.

Here’s a closer look at the handle end of the bowl.

Hmm… Do you see that little divot?

That’s the heartwood.

While shaping the handle, I did end up reaching the soft heartwood from underneath, so I was very careful not to expose any more of it.

Oiling the wood should help protect it. Before I did that, though, I made a last minute change.

I decided to drill a hole though the “foot” of the handle, for a hanging cord of some kind.

Finally, it was time to oil it! I use mineral oil, as it is food safe, and does not go rancid.

I love how the oil brings out the beauty of the wood, as well as protecting and preserving it!

Just a couple more detail shots. 🙂

I have since threaded some twin that’s almost the same colour as the wood, though the hole.

I think I will give this to my brother. They may never use it, but I know he and his wife will appreciate it. Especially since it was made using wood from maples I had to clear away to fix the pump shack window. 🙂 A little piece of the farm!

The Re-Farmer

That’s convenient, and sooo tired!

With feeding the critters outside, I needed a good, sturdy scoop to hold the cat kibble, deer feed or bird seed. At first, we tried re-purposing the gallon plastic jugs from distilled water. They’re basically the same that milk comes in. We would just cut the bottom off to form a scoop and, with the cap on, the jug itself became the carrying vessel.

The plastic, however, was too flimsy and bendy. I believe it was my husband who first cut the bottom off of an empty popcorn container from Costco. The plastic is much stronger, and even the handle is a better shape. Very convenient!

There is something else that’s convenient.

When we fixed up the old platform bird feeder, I’d taken off the rotten seed platform, but left the supports. I figured I might add another platform in the future, but as soon as it was set back up, the birds started using the supports to perch on. Being so handy for the birds, they’ll be left as is.

Which is working out for me, too.

After refilling the new bird feeder, I need to hands to be able to put it back on the hook.

The supports are the perfect width and height to hold my scoop for me while I hang the feeder! LOL

Also, while doing my rounds, I couldn’t resist getting a picture of this clump of trees by the barn.

They are just so tired!

I know. Lame. I couldn’t help myself! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Winterizing: clearing an old roof

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

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

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


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

So much for using a chain saw.

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

This is what it looked like before I started.

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

This is not a small tree, either!

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

The other corner had tree problems, too.

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

This one was growing around a sharp end!

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

This is where they were rubbing against the roof.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Re-Farmer

Maple spoon; an unexpected experiment

Today was another hot one, which made it a good day to finally go into the basement and see what I could do with the various pieces of wood I’ve brought down there.

Since getting my wood carving kit, I haven’t had much chance to make things with it. I used the spoon blank it came with for my first attempt. Then I used some of the lilac wood pieces to make a hair pin for my daughter. I have since made a longer, plainer lilac hair stick for my daughter, and tried to make one out of cherry for myself.

I say “tried” because when I got a bit decorative at the thick end, it ended up breaking, twice. The inner core of the piece of cherry I was using was rotted just enough that when I tried shaping the wood, it was just too weak. This was true of the lilac wood, too, but I hadn’t tried to carve anything that would affect the integrity as much, so they were fine.

Today, I wanted to make something with some of the maple pieces from the tree I had to cut part off, earlier this year, so it would be safer for my brother to move around on the shed roof he was patching.

I had a branch of it set aside, waiting for a day like today, and I cut a short piece to work on.

I was thinking of going very simple, and making a spreader or something like that.

Thinking of the lilac and cherry wood, though, I decided to split the piece and see what it was like on the inside.

Well, crud.

I’m not going to be able to make a spreader out of that.

So I cut a piece from a larger branch I had set aside.


I really hope it isn’t all like this. The stuff I want to make uses the heartwood. For the larger pieces, I’m thinking of cups or bowls. Stuff I plan to actually use.

In fact, there was a particular piece of dead maple I’d found while cleaning up the maple grove, I think in our first summer here, that I was looking forward to using.

It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but when I cut it, this particular maple had red rings inside it.

I cut a piece off the end and took a look.

That does not bode well.

So I split it.


Yup. The middle is rotted.


What about the edges? The parts with the red it in still looked solid.

So I split it again.

It did not split well, but the wood did seem pretty solid. Could I do something with this?

I wasn’t sure.

Over the next hour and a half or so, I hacked at it with a giant knife (which I’ve been using in lieu of a hatchet), decided to try the sloyd knife to carve out a spoon bowl, gave up on that and tried the Dremel (the two different tips I tried did the job, but the friction actually charred the wood!), finally broke open my new set of rasps and used a bar rasp with 4 different surfaces, and yes, even the carving knives.

Part way through, I dragged one of the chimney blocks from the old basement to use as a lower, solid surface. Especially for when I was hacking away with the big K-bar.

So that hunk of wood up there?

This is what I got out of it.

I didn’t stop to take any photos while I was working on it because, to be honest, I didn’t think it would work!

So here, I am at the stage of using my coarsest grit sand paper.

As I moved up to finer sandpaper, I would sometimes use my little vice.

You can really see the gouges left by the rasp. The vice made it much easier to just use a narrow strip of sandpaper around the handle and pulling back and forth.

Working my way through ever finer grits of sandpaper took probably another hour and a half.

Sanding the inside of the bowl was the most difficult. While I could use the curved sloyd knife a bit, the wood was really too small for the blade. What I really needed was a wood gouge, but I don’t have one. So that’s where the Dremel came in handy, to get the bulk of the wood out of the bowl, but I still had to cut out the bits that charred from the friction and shape it. I ended up using the other carving knives more than the sloyd knife, because of that.

Here it is, after final sanding.

You can see on the scrap wood, where the knife was hitting while I was chopping away the excess wood on the spoon. 😀

I also included the bar rasp, to show the different surfaces.

Of course, I just had to get a picture of it next to a piece of the wood it came from.

I still can’t believe I was able to get this out of that chunk of wood!

As I was sanding it, I noticed black showing up in the non-red parts of the wood.

Having done my research before I started with my first attempt at carving, I recognized it as spalting. There are people who go out of their way to use spalted wood. It’s basically a sign of the wood’s decomposition.

It was very faint as I sanded, but how would it look after being oiled?

And how would that red show up after being oiled?

Let’s find out!

Wow!! What a difference!

I could have cut this part out, but I kind of like it.

Unfortunately, I find the spalting makes it look like it’s dirty. 😦

On the back, you can still see some of the roughness of the would that I didn’t quite get rid of completely. They look a bit like scratches on the lower part of the spoon. The part that became the outside of the spoon bowl had some chunks missing from how the wood split. It meant less excess wood to remove in that area, at least.

So this experiment was a lot more successful than I had dared hope! Not only was I able to get something out of a partially rotted piece of wood, but I was able to start and finish a spoon in one sitting!

One of these days, I want to try making a fork. 🙂

The Re-Farmer


This evening, I headed back to the shed my brother and I patched up, so clean up the maple I had cut away to make it safer for him to get to the ladder.

Normally, I would have just dragged the whole thing over to the still growing pile of wood we plan to have chipped.

I do, however, now have carving tools, and I’ve been reading some articles about the difference in carving with green wood.

Now, when I looked at that tree coming down, I saw it in a completely different light!

I saw cups and small bowls, and spoons, and other such useful things.

So I went back to salvage as much as I could.

It also gave me the opportunity to finally test out my new long handled, ratchet pruners.

Oh, those things were a dream to work with! I easily cut through thicknesses I’d had to use a saw for, previously.

After trimming away and cleaning up, I brought the pieces I wanted to keep to the house.

I had one large piece, and a couple of smaller ones.

With the wood so fresh, I wanted to debark the pieces right away. I wanted to get that done right away, as I figured even waiting until tomorrow, they would be harder to debark At this point, the bark came off so easily, I used mostly just my fingers, with a knife to get the odd bits started.

When I got to the big piece, my daughters came out to give me a hand. 🙂

That wood is just so beautiful!! It’s incredibly smooth, and such a lovely colour. I look forward to figuring out what to do with them.

The pieces will sit outside overnight, and then will be moved to the basement. On days when I can’t work outside, I’ll see what I can come up with!

I have an old friend that has been carving for 30 years. He carves things like faces onto walking sticks, and the most wonderful, life-like birds, he later paints. After he found out I got a carving kit, we talked shop for a while, and one of the things he recommended was to start with basswood.

That would be the smart thing to do.

Starting with a hard wood like maple is certainly not recommended!

Aside from the spoon blank that came with my kit, though, I have no basswood, and my reason for wanting to take up carving is to use the wood we have.

Right now, that’s maple!

My brother visited our mom on his way home, and filled her in on what we did here at the farm. She was quite excited about it and phoned me later on. As we were talking, I mentioned having to cut away part of a tree that’s growing out from under the shed, telling her that I hoped to use it for carving, rather than letting the wood go to waste. She asked what I planned to carve, and I told her maybe some small bowls or cups, etc.

She requested a mushroom! 😀

So when I next have a chance to practice carving, I will try and carve a morel mushroom for my mother. 🙂

It should be fun!

The Re-Farmer

I thought this was cool!

We have a provincial election coming up, with voting day on the same day we have a medical appointment for my husband in the city, so we are taking advantage of the advance polls being open right now.

I’d already voted and had to go through the whole registration process a few days ago, so when the girls and I came in, I had some time on my hands while they did the paperwork.

The location just happens to have a Pokemon Go gym at it, so I went outside to conquer it.

While I was doing that, I noticed some beautiful fungi at the bottom of a maple tree.

While pausing to take pictures, I noticed something amazing about the tree.

I’m going to stack the photos below and hopefully give you some sense of what I was seeing.

Woodpeckers have drilled a trench up the tree, then into the tree, with holes opening it up along the way.

That blows my mind is that the tree is somehow still alive! There is very little bark left on it.

While taking those pictures, I noticed the tree next to it.

With this, just a short distance from my head.

I have a hard time believing no one has noticed it, since it’s clearly been there a while. Which means it’s been left there on purpose. This is a municipal owned property, and all I can think when I see that is “liability.” !!

I can see where other trees have been taken down, plus there are pieces of tree trucks strewn about artistically in the grass. The trees are obviously tended to, in a general sense.

Though the power lines to the building run right through several trees.



I just thought that swooping, bird created trench and holes in the one tree was really amazing and wanted to share it. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Still falling, still alive, and kitten news

With so many branches of all sizes fallen during the storm, I’m still picking up ones I’ve missed around the yard, along with new ones that have fallen since.

While I have been staying away from working on the outer yard, I did notice a fairly large branch had fallen near the chain link fence, so yesterday evening, I went and dragged it out.

I ended up dragging out other dead branches that had been there before, as well, but none were as big as this one.

It will be good to finally clean up around and between these old maples. When I was a kid, the fence was on the other side of them, and they were part of the inner yard.

They are not doing very well.

I’m pleased to find, however, that another maple IS doing well.

When I cleared here last year, taking out a rotting stump, I found it had actually been supporting the still living part of the tree. It tipped over precariously, so I straightened it and tried to give it support at ground level. It tipped again, if not quite so much, and I had my doubts if it would survive.

I’m happy to say, it is looking quite healthy! Just a couple of dead branches that will need pruning.

As I doing my rounds in the morning, I pick up any branches that have fallen during the night. I was doing just that in the south yard, under one of the Chinese elms, when I heard some noise above me – looking up just in time to see another dead branch fall down and land next to me!

Picking up fallen branches is one of those never ending chores. Like dishes. No matter how many times you do them, they always come back!

The Re-Farmer


Sorry! I had to hurry because a roofing company was coming over to do an estimate, and didn’t get to include the kitten news!

With my daughter’s help, I was able to get photos of each of the kittens, and the 2 moms. I’d already got permission from the administrator of a regional Facebook group that includes the city, and posted the pictures last night.

The first person who responded told me I should go to a rescue society, get them fixed, because there were too many kittens.

It was very condescending.

Then I got a response from someone talking about how we probably have more all over the place beyond the ones she’s seen, and even made a comment about how she thought they looked “demented.”

This person has never been here, and has never seen these kittens.

I recognize the last name, so this is probably someone who lives in the area. In fact, she might even live on the property on the other side of my brother’s place, at which point, she might be thinking of his yard cats. I don’t know, but it was a weird comment!!

Thankfully, I also got three people expressing an interest in adopting. One lives 2 hours away, but if things work out, we might be able to meet half way, in the city, at the end of the month and we can deliver a kitty when we do our monthly shop. The kittens will be old enough to leave by then.

We shall see how it works out!