Some manual labour, and getting things started

After dropping one daughter off at work, my other daughter and I did a whole bunch of manual labour around the yard.

The first thing we did was haul away the stuff I’d clean up in the old wood pile area, including moving the pile of debris to the back of the outhouse, and sorting through the pile of found objects and garbage.

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Clean up: old wood pile progress

Today has been a very unproductive day. I felt exhausted all day, to the point of falling asleep at the computer. I even tried to nap, but that was a failure. Mostly because I’m a suck, and I didn’t have the heart to move the sleeping pile of cats on my bed. 😀

It was my turn to do the cat litter tonight, and I headed out a bit early to do the sun room litter pans. It seemed cooler, so I stayed out and worked on the old wood pile area. I didn’t get very far. Again, I was feeling exhausted, and was dripping with sweat. This is not usual for me.

Then, just before starting this post, I checked the temperature.

27C – feels like 30C.

Which means it was even hotter while I was out there, even though it was about 7pm at the time.

That might have something to do with how I was feeling!

This is what I managed to do, in the short time I was out.

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Not what I was looking for

Last summer, while going around the property with my older brother, we had gone into an area filled with rocks and blocks of concrete and all sorts of bushes growing among them. My brother remembered that there were hazelnut bushes there. We didn’t find any, but I decided to check it out again, in case something managed to grow this year.

I didn’t find any hazelnuts.

I did find other things, though!

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Chokecherries

This morning, I grabbed a bucket and checked out the chokecherry trees.

After my last visit with them, I thought I might be too late for the one tree; either they would be over ripe, or the birds would have got them by now.

Happily, there were plenty of perfectly ripe (very dusty!) berries!

I was even able to pull branches down and get lots from the top.

This is how much I got, from just the one tree – minus the many that went flying or rolling out of my hands onto the ground! 😀

Which is quite noticeably better than last year.

20180802.bucket.of.chokecherries

That was all what I was able to pick from both trees near the road, last year.

This year, that second tree is not doing as well.

There were very few berries, they were really small, and not consistently ripening.

I left this tree alone.

Then I went for the tree closer to the house. The berries there were much plumper, but the berries were also mostly out of reach. The lower branches don’t get anywhere near as much light, so there were fewer berries and they were redder. My daughter was able to come out and help by pulling the upper branches down so I could reach to pick them.

Check them out!

While there were a fewer berries, they had almost as much volume as the berries from the other tree.

Yes, they are also a lot more red and not as ripe. This is okay, as the less ripe berries have more natural pectin.

As I write this, the chokecherries are sitting in cold water to get rid of any critters that might have come along for the ride, and get the bulk of the dust from the gravel road off. Later, I will give them a thorough wash in cold water, then pick them over to get rid of stems and any messed up berries.

Last year, we made chokecherry vinegar, to use mostly as a drink mix, with our berries. I have not yet decided if we will do the same thing this year. I’ll go through some ideas with my daughters later. I rather like the idea of making a jelly, but that vinegar was really good!

At the very least, we’ll set some aside to freeze and use to make chokecherry mead at some point. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: around the outhouse and moving the debris pile

Ah, what a perfect day to work outside! This morning, it was cool enough that I actually wore…

*gasp*

…long sleeves!

😀

The goal was to move the debris pile from where I’m clearing in the old wood pile to the area behind the outhouse. Which meant I first had to clear around the outhouse.

Here is how it looked before I started.

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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

Morning on the beach

I was able to swing by the beach after dropping my daughter off at work.

What a glorious morning!

I love these marks the waves left behind, as the tide receded.

Those squiggly whiter lines are tiny ridges of sand, left behind by waves.

The rocky part of the beach is always so much more interesting than the sandy parts!

You never know what you might find, too.

Unfortunately all the pictures I took focused on my dash in the background, instead of this amazing rib bone I found. The size of the fish this belonged to must have been impressive!

Yes, I kept it – for my other daughter’s collection.

The Re-Farmer

Unexpected Clean Up: pruning apple tree losses

Yesterday, I heard some odd meowing noises out my window, so I went to check it out.

I walked right by one of the apple trees by the old kitchen garden, completely missing it was the source of the meowing!

The base of this tree is one of the cats’ favorite rolling-in-the-dirt places. When I first spotted them, though, he was mostly hidden behind the tree. It was his Aunty Beep Beep that had me laughing. It looked like a pair of eyes was watching me from the ground!

Then she rolled around some more; the epitome of grace. Not. 😀

Since I was there anyhow, I stopped to take a good look at this apple tree.

You can see one branch is hanging quite low, weighted down by apples as they get bitter.

Much if it, however, did not survive the winter. It wasn’t doing well last year, and I guess that polar vortex that kept hitting us was too much for parts of it.

As you can see from its base, it has been cut back a few times. I don’t think there’s anything left of the original graft. The two main trunks that you see in the above picture seemed to be dead. With living and dead branches so entwined together, it was really hard to tell where one branch started another began. I couldn’t tell if they were completely dead, or if they still had a live branch or two on them.

Either way, down they came.

Not a living thing on either of them.

I cut them at about 3 feet above ground, with the intention of cutting the remains, further down. Instead, I decided to make use of them.

I took the branch that was hanging down the most and braced it against one of the remaining trunks. It had a secondary branch that immediately began leaning over in the other direction, so I used rope and the remaining trunk pieces to support them. If they survive, with this support, they will continue to grow stronger, upwards.

This is not a healthy tree, however, so we shall see.

This is how it looks now.

It’s hard to tell, with the maple grove in the background, and with the dead wood gone, there’s surprisingly little left. Basically, they’re just suckers that have survived while the rest of the tree has slowly died.

After finishing with this one, I turned to another apple tree next to it.

This tree had quite a bit pruned away, but also had signs of a fungal disease.

The branches that had the most signs of disease seem to have died.

Once again, with how twisted the branches were around each other, it was hard to see how much of any particular main branch was dead.

I ended up taking out three major branches.

One of them did have a still-living off shoot, but…

The part of it closest to the main branch is blackened. It almost looked burned.

One of the dead branches I cut out was so intertwined with others, it was really hard to pull out of the tree, with several dead branches breaking off and staying stuck among the living.

After cleaning it out, one of the living branches ended up hanging down almost to the ground. It turns out to have been supported by one of the dead sections. I could have mucked about to give it support, but in the end decided it would be better for the tree to take that weight off completely.

There was a third apple tree, growing between the plums, with a dead piece I cut off as well, though I neglected to take photos of that one.

I haven’t done much beyond maintaining what I did in this area last year, trying to focus on the East yard and the spruce grove, instead. Even so, I can see how the trees that seemed the weakest last year are either struggling even more this year, or have died outright. The row of apple trees to the north of the spruce grove is no exception. I don’t think we’ll be getting many apples this year. Not just in quantity, but they bloomed so late, it’s unlikely they’ll have time to ripen before the cold sets in. One that had been pruned back the summer before we arrived had started to recover fairly well, but not enough to survive this past winter. Others in that row have lost quite a few branches. Those, I think I’ll leave pruning back until next spring or so.

Something we will have to keep in mind as we plant more food trees: either they will be varieties hardy enough for our bitter winters, or we will have to ensure they get extra protection wrapped around them in the fall.

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