Clean Up: spruce grove perimeter, by the Saskatoons

One of the clean up goals that got shifted back a year, due to my husband’s hospitalization and other issues last year, was to clear the spruce grove. Not all of it; parts of it will be left overgrown to shelter critters. I do want to get most of it cleared. This will be a multi-year project, but at the very least, I want to get the perimeter done.

That was supposed to include clearing around and into the junk pile, but now that we know Butterscotch’s kittens are in there, that will wait.

We never did get a chance to clear things out to reach the Saskatoon bushes near the junk pile, but I still wanted to get that done so we can reach them, and the chokecherry trees beside them.

Here is how it looked when I started.

The spruce tree in the foreground is still alive, while the tree on the left of the photo is dead, as is the one by the junk pile on the right of the photo.

(Also, I set up containers for kibble and water for the babies, and yes, they’ve already discovered them!)

There had been quite a few bushes and spirea at the base of the live spruce tree, and crowding the horseradish, that I cleared away a couple of nights ago (it was too dark for photos at the time), so a start has already been made in this area.

The first thing to do was cut away the elms that have been growing in the old wine barrel planter that used to be such a favorite place for the kittens to nap and play in. Then I began working a bit towards the junk pile. Not too far, though, as the spirea in there creates places for them to hide in.

I’d forgotten about that tire rim that was buried in there… 😀

After moving the tire rim into the old wine barrel planter, I discovered something else.

Those are concrete blocks, buried in the soil!

When we first moved here, the wine barrel on its side in the bushes was intact enough that the cats would sit on it. It was another favorite spot for them, until it rotted out enough that the staves collapsed! 😀

It looks like the tire rim was placed on top of the blocks, then the barrel on top of the tire rim until it eventually got knocked over. Unlike the planter, this was a whole barrel, not one cut in half to be a planter. I don’t know what it was set up for.

I’ve left the blocks for now, and did not clear further around the remains of the barrel. I figure this makes a nice spot for kittens to play in!

I didn’t want to go any closer to the junk pile – I don’t want Butterscotch to move her babies! – so I started working around the other side. Some of this area, I’d cleared before, but it doesn’t take long for spirea to spread out again!

Here is how it looked when I stopped for the day.

I would have liked to continue, but even working in the shade, it was just getting too hot.

The Saskatoon bushes are still loaded with – now dried – berries. I’m sure the birds will enjoy what we could not harvest. The chokecherry trees in there should be ready for picking fairly soon. It is likely too late in the season to make a difference this year, but clearing up around them will likely result in better growing and fruiting conditions, too.

Here is another view.

For this photo, I’m standing near the horseradish and facing right into the Saskatoon bushes, with a few chokecherry branches hanging over from the side.

This is how it looks from further in.

All those skinny little trunks you see on the right half of the photo are chokecherries and Saskatoon bushes.

When I worked in here previously, I’d cleared away the spirea up to a spruce tree with an extension cord hanging down from it. So most of this area had already been done. I only worked closest to the Saskatoon bushes and chokecherry trees for now. Eventually, I want to clear all the spirea out of here. There are wild roses growing not far from here, and I would like to encourage those to spread, instead.

As for this area near the edge of the spruce grove, I want to keep it clear of undergrowth. It’s one of the areas I want to eventually set up a bench and create a little haven, near the stone cross my late brother set up at the very edge of the grove. If possible, this would be an area I’d like to encourage moss to grow as a ground cover.

It was a fairly small area that got cleared, but there was a lot in it! I was able to pull most of the spirea out by the roots. With some of them, there was a LOT of root coming up with them! The topsoil here is decades of decomposed spruce needles, so it’s quite loose, making it much easier to get those roots out.

Eventually, we will have the tree company that cleared our roof and power lines come back and take out the two dead spruce trees here. We were supposed to get that done this spring, or at least get the chipping done, but we ended up spending all our money fixing vehicles and replacing appliances. We probably won’t be able to get it done this year at all.

Which gives me more time to clean up the area, which will make it easier for them to get at the dead trees.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Back at it

After taking yesterday to recover, I was feeling well enough to continue working outside today.

But first, I got to release the kitties!


They now know they are allowed to be upstairs when I open the basement door, so they and Beep Beep are all at the top step, waiting for me. As they all go rushing up, there’s an equal rush from the adults cats, going the other direction!

For now, we’re still going to keep them in the basement over night, during days when we’re not around to keep an eye on them, or if we have to go in and out of the house a lot. Keith and Fenrir in particular are not happy about the babies, so we have to keep an eye on them.

The kittens have discovered a safe place to chill out, where the big cats can’t get at them.

Well. Almost.

“If I can’t see them, they can’t see me, right?”

They are certainly entertaining!!

Once I was done my morning rounds, I headed outside to continue mowing around the old garden area.

This time, I remembered to wear my wrist brace. Much to my surprise, it was my wrist that was hurting the most, yesterday. I guess stopping to empty that clippings bag so often was just too much for it.

I really ought to get a doctor to look at that. Knowing me, I probably broke something back when I was helping my brother with patching the shed roof. 😀

One of the things I’ve noticed this year is Saskatoon bushes in places I had not noticed them before. This year is looking to be a really good year for Saskatoons. At least it would be…

I found this large Saskatoon bush among the lilac hedge while mowing. There were no Saskatoon berries here in the last two summers.

This summer, the bush is just full of berries!

None of which I’d be willing to pick and eat.

While some of the bushes have their leaves infested with insect eggs that are weakening them, this one actually looks diseased. A few of the berries look great, but most are smaller, kinda wizened looking, and some have the same spots that are on the leaves.

Such a shame.

Still, while doing my rounds this morning, I was able to gather berries from other trees that are just fine! I will have to try and remember to bring a basket or something with me for the next while, to gather them as they ripen. I’ve been lifting up the bottom of my shirt to make a pouch to hold them, which works fine – right up until I need both hands to switch out the memory cards on the trail came or something. 😉

Once again, while mowing, I made ample use of the grass clippings. Since I was working close to them, I worked the clippings around the sunflowers.

The clippings are doing triple duty. For the smaller, late planted sunflowers, it’ll help keep them from being overgrown by grass and weeds. The mulch is part of our larger plan to build up and amend the neglected soil here, but for this area, it’s also being used to help level out the poorly plowed area.

The poor lawn mower. No matter how careful I was, I still ended up hitting lumps of rocky soil, hidden by the grass. Other times, the wheels would slide into ruts, dropping the blade onto furrows, leaving me to manhandle the machine out. I must say, I was very happy to see my daughter coming out, letting me know she had finished work for the day and could take over for me! The old garden area is the most difficult area to work on. At some point, we’re going to have to go out there with garden hoes and break apart the worst of the hills the bad plow job left behind. It would be better to use heavy equipment to level the whole area out, but we make do with what we can.

For now, the inner yard is done. Tomorrow, I’ll be checking the blade on the mower and probably giving it a sharpen, before I start working on the outer yard!

That poor little mower is really getting a workout! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Recovery day

It was a sleepless night last night. Even with painkillers, I still hurt all over. That, on its own, would have been fine. What made it difficult is what I could only describe as a total rebellion of m body! You’ve probably heard of restless legs syndrome? That’s when you’re lying in bed, trying to relax and go to sleep, but your legs just can’t stay still. Now, imagine that, but with the whole body. It didn’t matter how tired I was, or how much pain the moving around caused, I just couldn’t stop. I think I finally fell asleep somewhere around 5am.

What I found odd, though, is that there was NO storm last night! I’d been keeping an eye on the weather radar, because there was a wide swatch of a storm system coming for us, including areas of heavy and severe weather. There was no way it was going to miss us.

And yet, it did. At one point, I checked the weather radar, and the system had passed us, and all I could think was, what happened? We didn’t even get rain or winds!

Today is looking beautiful, though. During my morning rounds, I took extra time to check on different areas, do a bit of weeding among the carrots, parsley and beets, and visit the MUCH taller sunflowers!

You can see the little, late planted, one in the foreground. 😀

I really look forward to seeing how big these guys get.

While checking the fence line along the garden, I found these.

I don’t know what these little shrubs are, and had no idea they bloomed until today! We have quite a few of them in the area.

There are also a few Saskatoon bushes in the area. We’d done a bit of clean up in the area, two summers ago, and they have gotten noticeably stronger since then, and actually producing berries now.

Breakfast! 😀

While doing my rounds, I had an internal battle going on. On the one hand, my brain was saying, “oh, the weather is so nice today! It’s a perfect time to get out the weed trimmer and clean up around the mowed areas. Then mow the old garden area. There’s also lots of Saskatoons to pick near the house.” The list went on. Meanwhile, my body is saying, “Ow. Ow. Ow. Are you kidding me? Sleep. That’s what’s on the to-do list. Sleep.”

I think my body is winning this fight.

We have, however, opened the new part basement door, which means there is an army of kittens (the 5 kittens seem more like 15! 😀 ) tearing around the house – and especially my bed! – playing with the adult cats that will tolerate them, and discovering cat toys the others have long gotten tired of.

It’s very entertaining! 😀

The Re-Farmer

An interesting night!

The predicted thunderstorms did pass over us last night. Not the severest part of the system, but enough that we had quite the light show. More are expected today, though I think we will, once again, just get hit by the edges of the system.

I had intended to actually *gasp* go to bed before midnight last night, but I noticed something odd in the live feed from the garage security camera.

One of the side doors was open, and swinging in the wind.

Which is when I remembered: I had intended to do a dump run yesterday, so I prepped garbage bags in the garage, then left the main door open, for when I came back for the van.

I built a screen for the basement door, instead. By the time I remembered, the dump was closed. I completely forgot I’d left the main door open.

So one of my daughters and I went out in the storm; me in my nightgown, rubber boots and an umbrella. 😀 My daughter didn’t bother with an umbrella.

We had already lost internet for a while by then. It was up and running again, but then the power flickered out long enough that everything re-set. The router took a while to get going again, and the security camera put itself in default position, rather than facing down the driveway. The power flickered off again later, but not long enough that we had to fuss with things all over again.

It did, at least, cool down! As I write this, we are at what now feels like a fairly cool 22C/71F (“real feel” 25C/77F). The humidity is at 73%. When I did my rounds this morning, it was actually raining, every so slightly.

The rain we’ve been having has been awesome, though. I’ll put up with the overgrown weeds and lawn for things like this.

This is part of a Saskatoon bush we’ve got next to where we are planning to build the cordwood outhouse (though at this rate, I’ll be amazed if we can manage to remove the sod and create a base for it by fall!). Just look at all those berries! This tree isn’t even particularly healthy, either!

These unripe berries are already larger and plumper than the fully ripe berries it had last year – and I watered this one that year! You see the one dark, dried up berry? That’s more like what they looked like last year, fully ripe.

Hhhmm… I wonder what Saskatoon berry mead would be like? 🙂

I really need to go visit my cousin and pick up a couple of his big buckets of honey.

One down side of all the rain is, the mosquito population has exploded. It meant rushing through checking on things, and I never did go through the areas I normally do after a storm, so see what branches have come down. I did check the gardens and the sunflowers, though.

The sunflowers are really starting to grow fast! The one in the middle is the taller variety, and it already shows.

Unfortunately, another top got chomped, which you can see on the bottom. I believe I saw our culprit in the trail cams, too. The one deer that still visits regularly. It has a very distinctively long face and leggy body that makes it recognizable.

I really hope we don’t lose too many more of these. I should pick up some chicken wire or something to protect them.

Which reminds me; my intended trip into town today will be delayed until tomorrow. I completely forgot that yesterday was the last day of June.

Happy Canada Day!

Not that anyone’s allowed to celebrate it this year. :-/ Why anyone bothers with restrictions on crowds right now, after allowing all those protests without consequences, I have no idea. Not only has Canada Day celebrations all been canceled, but warnings had gone out over “rumors” that people intended to have their own celebrations.

At times like this, I really appreciate living here, away from everyone. I’ll take dealing with deer eating my sunflowers over people, any day!

What can I say. I’m a hermit at heart! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Growing things – and not growing things

My daughters and I headed out towards the barn last night, and noticed the dogwood growing at the shed with the roof my brother and I patched is now blooming very enthusiastically!

It is such a strong, healthy bush! I’m hoping I can get away with leaving it alone, even though it’s growing right up against the shed. Unlike the maples growing along the side, I don’t think dogwood will grow in a way that will actively damage the shed.

While doing my rounds this morning, I noticed the Saskatoon bushes by the south fence have once again become infested. 😦

This is some sort of insect damage, and almost all the Saskatoon bushes along this area show some signs of it. Last year, there were very few Saskatoon berries, partly because the bushes were just not very healthy, and I believe this infestation is the reason. It doesn’t seem to be on any other type of tree around there, so whatever insect is doing this, they seem to have a preference for Saskatoons.

For the first time since noticing that something has been killing off sunflower seedlings, I found one where the leaves were still there. All the others, there was just a stub of a stem sticking out, and the leaflets were completely gone.

With a few other areas, I don’t expect any seedlings to break ground. The spots they were planted in appear to have been dug into by some critter. It may even have been skunks digging in the only soft soil in the area, looking for grubs, though the holes don’t look like the divots they usually leave in the yard.

My mother’s white lilacs, meanwhile, are at the peak of their blooming period!

Meanwhile, we had covered the squashes and cantaloupes last night, as the temperatures were expected to drop close to freezing. There was no frost warning, but it would still have been cold enough to hurt the squash and cantaloupes. They all looked just fine, when I uncovered them this morning. I’m glad we covered them. It got cold enough last night, that the furnace actually turned on!

After this, we aren’t expected to have temperatures that low again as far as the long range forecasts go. Hopefully, that will be the end of that!

The Re-Farmer

The crazy and the calm

Heading down to visit the kitties was certainly a wild and crazy ride, this morning!

The kittens were waiting for me.

First, I had to shoo away the cats from the door in the entryway. Then, when I opened it, Beep Beep was ready to rush through, which would have been fine, except Leyendecker dashed through, too. Turmeric was at the top of the stairs, too. She was just a bit more hesitant about actually going through, so I was able to keep her at bay.

Leyendecker managed to get through the door three times before I could finally close it. Meanwhile, Beep Beep had run back down, with David and Two Face making a dash for it, too. By this time, all of the kittens were on the stairs, and with the door closed, they decided my feet and legs were fair game.

They continued to attack my feet, jump up my legs, and try and eat my shoelaces, as I very, VERY carefully made my way around.

Once I started taking care of the food and water, they started to get distracted by other things, thankfully.

Not one stayed still long enough to get a decent picture! 😀

I was eventually able to get all the adult cats upstairs, which meant I could give the kittens some wet cat food, and they’d actually get some!

By the time I was done, I was more than ready for the relative calm of doing my rounds outside.

I just had to deal with hordes of mosquitoes. Which was an improvement. !!

Checking the garden plots, it looks like more cat damage to the one plot of carrots. We won’t be getting a lot of rainbow carrots this time around. 😦

The grape vine I accidentally clipped is starting to look at bit droopy, higher up, but the lower leaves still seem quite strong and healthy. Fingers crossed that it will survive.

While walking around the spruce grove, switching out the memory cards on the trail cams, has been interesting. I didn’t do a lot of clean up here, yet. Mostly, I just focused on clearing the fence itself.

The improved like has resulted in all kinds of things popping up.

These are Saskatoon berries, and there are SO MANY little tiny bushes growing, all over the place.

I will be keeping an eye on these new ones. When I was cleaning up, a lot of the larger ones were not looking very healthy. The drought certainly didn’t help. We do plan to buy Saskatoon bushes at some point, and plan out where to put them, but if these are strong and healthy, we might end up also transplanting some of these to better locations.

I had cut back the wild roses along with all the other undergrowth, quite a bit as we cleaned things up. I know they will grow back, so I’m not too worried about them. After we’ve cleaned things out, the wild roses and the dogwood are the two things I want to encourage as undergrowth in some areas.

Even with what little clearing we’ve done so far, we’re already getting more wildflowers.

There are a few of these Lily of the Valley, scattered about, in between another one with sprays of white, star-like blossoms. My attempt at getting a photo failed, though.

The goal for the spruce grove is to open it up, get rid of the dead trees, plant some new spruces to replace some of them, have paths we can walk through, with grass or moss, areas of wild roses and dogwood, and lots of wildflowers. Here and there, I’m planning to put various types of seating around. Not boards nailed to logs, like I’ve been finding all over! Those don’t do well, over time.

But first, it needs to be cleaned out, and that’s going to involve a lot of hard physical labour!

And chainsaws. Definitely chainsaws. There are some pretty big trees that need to be cleared out of there.

I probably won’t be back at that today, though. It’s cooler, if not any less humid, and still insane with mosquitoes, but my husband is encouraging me to take a day off, and give my wrist more time to recover. The problem is, it feels pretty good. Right up until I start using it. I shouldn’t need two hands to pick up a glass to take a drink. :-/ His concern is that I’ll just keep re-injuring it. He has a point. We are both notorious for that sort of thing. I just hate wasting the time. 😦

We shall see how it goes.

The Re-Farmer

Growing things

We’ve got all sorts of things growing right now.

Of course, the kittens are growing into ferocious little ankle biters.

They also love climbing on and clawing the grandpa slippers. 😀

Once outside, I checked the new garden bed and discovered carrots!

Unfortunately, there are also plenty of other things sprouting. At least the thistles are easy to pull out.

These carrots were done using a method found on a YouTube video, where the seeds were sprouted in water first, then put into a cornstarch gel in baggies, to be piped into the ground like icing.

These, along with the parsley, were planted on May 17. It is now the 24th. It took only 1 week for the sprouted seeds to break ground. Direct sown, they could take anywhere from 14 to 21 days.

Not only was the parsley also starting to show, but I think I’m even seeing some of the beets, which were planted 2 days later. I didn’t do anything special with them, other than cover the plots with plastic. Beets can take 7 – 14 days to sprout when direct sown.

It seems things are doing quite well in this location! I was able to remove the plastic on all the little plots. Even the kohl rabi. I just looked those up and they can germinate anywhere from 3 – 10 days.

I’m quite pleased with this!

Yesterday’s downpour has really revived everything! While doing my rounds, I found more blooming trees!

Yesterday, it was plum blossoms. Today, it’s Saskatoons. 🙂

Of course, the grass is also growing like mad. Time to break out the lawn mowers! 🙂

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.


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. 😀

Continue reading

I’m so thrilled!!!

My older brother and his wife are the best.

Awesome.  Amazing.  Fantastic.  Fabulous.  Wonderful.

They came over for a visit today, and brought me an “early birthday gift.”



I actually started crying, when I saw them pull up with the trailer, and this was on the back.

They bought us a riding mower.  Fully refurbished, heavy duty enough to handle the work we’ll be making it do AND it is fully maintainable.  It can even tow a small trailer!

I am thrilled beyond belief.

Of course, we had to start it up and test it out, and before I knew it, I’d mowed an entire section of the lawn.

Apparently, I had a huge grin on my face the entire time.

They have been beyond generous, since even before we moved out here.  I am so incredibly happy and grateful!

I can’t wait until I can finish mowing the lawn.  Which might not be until Monday, as we’re expecting rain off and on.

When they left, they even took the push mower that needs a new carburetor, to fix.  And a gas powered weed trimmer to check over and hopefully get going.

I am so incredibly happy right now!

During their visit, we went around the yard to check things out (getting our feet completely soaked in the process, so we didn’t go beyond the yard).  While seeing what was done in the flower garden, my SIL spotted a lovely little surprise.


One, lonely little asparagus spear. LOL There was a second one, about a foot away.  Who knows?  Maybe more will show up, eventually.

Nice to know they’ve survived.

We also went looking around to see if we could find the cherry trees my mother says are in the spruce grove.  It’s so overgrown with trees in that area, all about the same size, we never did find anything we could be sure was cherry.

There were a couple of other trees I’d noticed blooming a couple of weeks back, and I now know what they are.


Saskatoon berries!


These were on the list of food trees we want to have.  We might some day transplant them to a better location, but for now, I’m just happy that we have them.

So we know now for sure that we have chokecherries, Saskatoon berries, some raspberries (still need to clean that area up), gooseberries and chokecherries.  Hopefully, we’ll also have cherries.  Then there’s the rhubarb, horseradish and struggling little asparagus.

Which is pretty darn good, all things considered.

Me, I’m still grinning from ear to ear, over the riding mower. 😀

The Re-Farmer