So, this happened…

Today, I stayed in town for my daughter’s short shift. One of the things I ended up doing while there was picking up a magnetic lifter. You know, the kind of thing you would use when you drop a screw and it rolls under a shelf. I wanted to try and see if it would help me find nails in the dirt in the old wood pile.

It kind of worked.

The first challenge involved kittens, who thought it was a springy new toy!

The second was the fact that I wasn’t completely sure if I was feeling a magnetic pull or not. I did find a nail in my test, but I don’t know that the magnet is quite strong enough to find things in that much soil. Sometimes, though, it felt like there was a constant magnetic pull, even though I could find nothing in the ground.

The third problem was… well…

…let me show you.

My attempts to get a photo of the nail it successfully found in the dirt was foiled by Doom Guy, who was absolutely desperate for snuggles!

His claws are incredibly sharp.

He is also having some major respiratory problems. 😦

Which meant I was stuck with a sneezing, snorting, snotty cat that was poking holes in my body while trying to get comfortable in my arms.

And shoulders.

And back.

And head…

Since I was in the area and not working on the area today (I try to keep Sundays as my day of rest, as much as possible), I decided to look beyond were I’d cleared, and get an idea of what I would be working in, next.

I found more of my mother’s flowers. Sort of.

I recognize those plants with the long, slender, pointed leaves. There is a bunch of them in the old kitchen garden. Those have finally started to show flower spikes. I doubt these will bloom at all. They are growing among many dead cherry trees that have new cherry shoots coming up at their bases. My mother had mentioned planting some flowers here, then blaming them for apparently killing some spruce trees I was telling her about. Except these aren’t near the spruce trees I was talking about. Anyhow, I did know she had deliberately planted flowers under the trees somewhere in this area, and now I have found them.

Once this area is cleared and more sunlight gets to the ground, I’m sure we’ll see more flowers, just as we are already seeing more flowers along the edges of the spruce grove that I’d already cleared a bit.

Then I found this.

That’s, my friends, a big patch of poison ivy.

Western Poison Ivy, to be precise.

sigh

We’ve been on the look out for poison ivy since moving here, and while we have seen some similar plants, I was able to confirm that they were NOT poison ivy. I had never seen poison ivy on the property before, even as a child who spent many, many hours roving wild among the trees. I had begun to hope I still wouldn’t.

sigh, again.

The patch doesn’t seem to be very wide, but I also can’t see how deep it extends into the trees – and I won’t be able to until I start clearing back there.

I’ve been looking up how to get rid of it, and not looking forward to the job. At this point, I think I will just leave it for next year. I can avoid the patch when I’m clearing behind the outhouse and moving the debris pile I’ve raked out of the wood pile area. If I have time this year to clear into where those flowering plants that aren’t flowering right now are, I can avoid it on that side, too.

I really could have done without this.

Ah, well. It is what it is. We’ll deal.

The Re-Farmer

Location, location, location!

Location makes all the difference.

Even if you’re a chokecherry tree.

While picking a few more raspberries, I noticed some significant differences in the nearby chokecherry tree, compared to last year. Specifically, the ripening berries are already larger than the fully ripe berries I’d picked from this tree last year.

This location is closer to the house, where it gets shaded for much of the day by nearby spruce trees and the maple grove. Last year, I pruned this tree back and, thanks to my watering the transplanted raspberries, it got watered along with them.

I decided to check out the other two chokecherry trees among the lilacs that run along the north fence, where they (the lilacs) do a bang-up job keeping out the dust from cars passing by on the gravel road.

There are not a lot of berries on this one that I could see, and they are mostly very green; I made a point of getting a picture of the reddest ones I could find. These berries are quite a bit smaller than the tree closer to the house, though I’d say they are the same size as last year.

This tree is mostly hidden by lilac bushes, with a few branches leaning over where I mow. No watering happens this far from the house, other than what nature provides, and there has been no clean up or pruning of any kind. This tree is also in the section bordered to the south by a row of trees that was self-sown when my mother had raspberry bushes there. She transplanted the raspberries, but left the trees, splitting up a section of the old garden. The last time it was plowed, there was some attempt to plow along the north side of the trees, too, but with the trees there, that area is unusable for gardening.

She is not understanding why I see them and their location as a problem.

While this tree does get a lot of sun, that row of self-sown trees is large enough that, at certain times of day, they do shade it a bit. This is also near the end of the row of lilacs. After that, there are mature elms along the fence line that shade the area in the evening.

There is another chokecherry tree among the lilacs, and when I got to it, I found quite a surprise.

This tree has massive amounts of almost ripe berries!

Like the other tree among the lilacs, the only watering it’s been getting has been whatever rain we’ve had, and there has been zero pruning or clean up. The main difference is that there are no tall trees to shade it; just the lilacs it is growing with. Which means it gets full sun almost from sunrise to sunset. This time of year, I’d say about 9 or 10 hours of full sun a day, plus maybe 1 1/2 – 2 hours of non-direct light.

I would say the berries are about the same size as last year, though they are slightly bigger than the other one among the lilacs.

Earlier today, I was able to acquire a starter kit of equipment to start brewing mead. In looking up recipes, I’m excited to try some combinations. We’re already going to be using honey locally produced by my cousin. Some of the recipes include fruit and berries. I look forward to trying it out using our own sour cherries and chokecherries. Over time, we could also try it with raspberries (we won’t have enough this year) or Saskatoon berries (I think we’ll have to start over with new trees, though), haskap and other types of fruits and berries we will be growing as time goes by.

I think our first batch will be plain honey mead, as we learn the ropes, but I will be freezing cherries and chokecherries as we gather them (freezing helps with the release of natural sugars) to use in later batches.

I’m pretty excited about trying this out!!

Meanwhile…

Seeing how the same type of tree is doing in three different locations is giving me good information for when we are ready to plant other types of fruit, berry and nut trees around the property.

It’s all about location!

The Re-Farmer

Looking good

It’s been a busy few days of out-and-abouting, but today I hope to get actual manual labour done in the yard.

While also being careful of my broken toe, of course.

*grumble*

Yesterday, my older daughter and I got glamour shots of the kittens, to use in our attempts to adopt them out. We got a bunch of photos, uploaded them, went out to retake some for a couple of kittens, uploaded them, looked them all over again.

And again.

And again.

Went back out to track down the kitten we missed. 😀

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I couldn’t help myself – again!

My goal of the day was to finish using the weed trimmer around the yard, then hopefully starting part of the lawn.

Then I read the forecast for the day.

There were thunderstorms predicted for the evening.

On doing my rounds and finding the grass was already dry of dew, I skipped everything else and started mowing. Aside from a couple of short breaks to eat and hydrate, I’ve been outside all day.

The forecast ended up changing to rain, and now even that seems to be off the radar, but the job is done.

The last section I work on is the path to the back gate. As usual, I’ve been making the mowed area slightly wider then before, but in that area, sections are just too rough, and I know there are rocks and logs hidden in the grass somewhere, so I’m very careful about that right now.

While going past the back gate, I found myself looking at the other side each time. It hasn’t had new gravel on there in decades, so it’s grown over. Grass is one thing, but I was seeing saplings start to grow, right under the gate we rebuilt last year.

Then I remembered I still had the gate key in my pocket.

That looks much better!

On the list of things to eventually get done it to add gravel to our driveway. I’ve talked to my brother about it, and he says our little gravel pit is mostly out of gravel and wouldn’t have enough to do the driveway. What I would really like to do is extend the driveway from one gate to the other, so that this entrance can also be used without lurching over the rough areas. At least part of it is from someone driving through the area when it was muddy; a pair of tire tracks cut through, deep enough that I figure the driver was doing a lot of spinning to not get stuck.

This would be pretty low on the priority list, compared to things like a new roof. When the time comes to get estimates, I hope to get 3; a shorter term goal to do the main driveway, a mid-term goal to do the parking areas and up to the old pump shack, and a long term to extend the rest of the way to the back gate.

Until then, I’ll just keep it mowed, so the trees don’t take it over.

The Re-Farmer

First Estimate

I called several companies to get estimates to get our roof done.

The first one came by today to do an estimate.

He spent quite a bit of time checking things out and taking measurements, after we did a walk around. During the walk around, we talked about the chimney from the wood furnace that will need to be removed. I couldn’t tell him, one way or the other, if the TV antenna would be going back up after the roof is done. There is an unused satellite dish to take down that he included as a removal, though my brother might take it down himself before any roof work is done.

Among the things he noted was that, whoever did the roof last time, did not do the valleys properly (I think the roof was redone by my late brother, with various family members helping out), which could be easily seen from the ground. When on the roof, he identified two leak spots that corresponded to leaks we’d found inside during the winter. I brought up the possibility of finding rotten wood under the shingles, so he included the rate per foot that would be added on, should any be found.

The guy clearly knew his stuff, was very professional and efficient, gave me a very detailed estimate, then took the time to explain some of it. Such as how the step flashing would not be under warranty, because they would not be able to install it properly, due to the existing flashing being under the siding. They’re not going to break the siding to install new flashing, so they would have to install it over the siding. A silicone bead would be run across the top that would have to be redone every year, until we redo the siding and the flashing is property covered. At which point, that flashing would also be covered by the 30 year warranty.

His estimate also included things like converting plumbstacks, applying and supplying ice and water shields, one and two ply underlay for the different slopes, and replacing the goose neck exhaust vent. Clean up is included, too. It was all quite thorough.

The final number was almost $8,500, plus 5% GST. Given that I am sure they will find rotten wood to replace, I would expect the total to reach about $10,000. Which is pretty much in line with what I was expecting.

I also got a call from another company my SIL passed our phone number to (someone she knows personally), so we should have a total of 4 estimates to go over, by the time all is said and done.

I expect the other estimates to be similar, except the metal roof one, which I expect to be higher. Those come with lifetime warranties, so it’s a longer term investment.

So now we have to figure out how to come up with $10,000, or more if we go with a metal roof.

Before it becomes a real problem!

*sigh*

The Re-Farmer

Storms and stuff

Things got rather interesting, yesterday!

A series of thunderstorms made their way through our area. Our power flickered off and on about 6 times, that I know of. The first time it happened, I was on my desktop computer, when suddenly, it was off. !! Thankfully, I wasn’t working on anything that was affected by it.

I’m rather happy that we have power bars, everywhere!! 😀

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Clean up: garden prep and bale

Yes! It’s finally done!

We’ve broken down and removed the straw bale we got for mulch last year.

It’s amazing just how much material is packed into a round bale.

The girls continued taking wheel barrows of straw to the garden until the core was small enough to tip over and roll away.

There was still plenty left behind, of course.

Despite rolling against the grain, it still left a trail, all the way to the garden. 😀

Note in the above photo, how wide the mulched area in the garden is. We’ve already widened it on one side a bit, since we last worked on it.

Once in place, the core could simply be unrolled, leaving behind a thick enough layer that it only needed to be tamped down in places.

You can really see the difference between what was the bottom of the bale and the top; the part that was touching the ground is still tightly wrapped, and already starting to decompose, while the top is much looser, as it had room to spread while we took layers off to cover the septic tank and mulch the old kitchen garden.

This is where the bale sat all winter. When it was first moved, and my daughter was raking up what was left behind to haul away, she noticed lots of worms. When I was transplanting the raspberries, I noticed plenty of worms, too. This is a good sign!

This area behind the house is very spotty as far as how the grass is going, with the area closest to the house having almost no grass at all. So we’re not too worried about the grass that was under the bale; we’ll need to find some shade hardy grass seed for the area, anyhow.

And here we have the mulched garden area for next year. In the foreground, to the left, is a big gooseberry bush that I hope will actually produce some berries this year. Next to it is a chokecherry, then where the raspberries were transplanted, a crab apple tree, and the compost. Which, I discovered as I tried to turn it, was used for garbage at some point, as I found pieces of food tray foam and the remains of a plastic tray that held transplants. Plus, lots of branches, still. This is where a pile of pruned branches and cut back trees were piled, then moved to the middle of the garden, before we moved here. The plan had been to burn them – yes, even when it was right on the compost pile, under that apple tree! – but we broke it down and moved it manually, last spring. We’ll have fire pit fuel for a long time, just from that one pile!

The next steps for the mulched garden area is to “frame” it with some of those logs we have from getting the trees cleared. The idea is to keep the straw from being dragged around with our feet as we work in it. Other material will be added to it, to build up the layers and improve that rock-hard soil. Covering it all with landscape cloth to prevent the grass and weeds from growing through the mulch would be good, if we can get enough to cover the whole area.

We’re getting a pretty decent sized garden out of this! Obviously, nothing close to what it was before, but we can amend and re-claim sections of it, little by little, over the years, while planning out where we want to put more permanent plantings.

Slowly but surely, we’ll get it done! 🙂

The Re-Farmer