Morning in the snow

We’re supposed to get pretty warm today, with a predicted high of 2C/36F, and a combination of rain and snow. It was already just under freezing overnight, which should have meant a pleasant morning to do my rounds. I wasn’t expecting those winds, though! It was warm enough that snow on the roof is melting, and immediately freezing again. The downspouts are full of ice, so it’s dripping all along the eaves-troughs. I broke icicles, just opening the sun room door! 😀

The kitties were very happy for food and warm water!

I only counted 17 again, but they move around so much, I can’t tell which three were missing, which means even if they came around by the time I finished my rounds, I wouldn’t be able to tell.

There are deer tracks crossing all over the inner yard, and here you can see where they milled around the crab apple trees. Sadly, there are no crab apples for them this year. At least they’re getting a bit of food from the black oil seed we put out for the birds. This is just our first snowfall of the winter, though, so they are not at all in dire straights.

They did appreciate the sunflowers I left behind for them! There isn’t a single leaf or underdeveloped seed head left.

I just love this corridor along the spruce grove, created when we cleared away the lowest branches (many of which were dead). It makes for such a nice, sheltered walkway. As you can see by the tracks, the deer seem to prefer it, too!

My older brother planted these trees, sometime in early 70’s, I think. I would have been just a wee one, and don’t remember them ever not being there, but I do remember being able to climb some of them with my late brother, when we were little. 🙂 There was one tree that had branches lined up so that I could lounge on them like in a reclining chair. My late brother, on the other hand, could climb trees like a monkey, could climb any tree he wanted and go so much higher than I could, with or without branches handy! Of course, in my memory, they were absolutely huge. They would have been a fair bit smaller than they are now, but in my memory, they seemed bigger! 😀

Once I was done my rounds, I quickly checked the trial cam files, then headed out. I wanted to hit the post office, then to into town to refill our big water jugs and get a flat of eggs. By the time I headed out, however, the winds had picked up even more, and it was raining. Though the gravel roads had been plowed, they were still in rough shape, and driving on them was like driving on a wash board! The paved roads didn’t seem much better, so decided to pick up what I could when I picked up the mail. It’s in a tiny little general store, and they don’t have a lot of selection, but manage to have a good variety of groceries, at least. They do carry the big jugs of water, so I asked about that. Normally, one would pay a $10 deposit for the jug, then $6 for the water. After that, it’s just an exchange of empty jugs for full, for just the cost of the water. I checked, and they looked the same as our own jugs, and the store owner ended up calling the company about it. They were okay with taking another empty, as long as it was clean and the same size/type of jug. So I traded one of our empties that didn’t have a label on it and just had to pay for the water, and not a deposit. It’s more expensive than if I’d gone into town to refill them myself, like I usually do. Likewise with the cartons of eggs I got (we really need to get chickens!), but that’s a small trade off to avoid making the drive on rough, icy roads in the rain and gusting winds.

The closer I can stay to home, the more content I am! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: dead trees, and I’m being watched!

Yesterday evening, I was able to head out and finally work on the dead tree that’s stuck. While I was getting tools out of the sun room, I discovered I was being watched!

They were not only watching me, but they did NOT run away, and one of them looks almost relaxed!

I’ll take that as progress. 😀

Then it was time to get to work.

For the tree that’s stuck, the first thing that needed to be done was to brace it before I started cutting. Then I measured a little more than four feet from the bottom and cut it most of the way through. Then, just to be safe, I used a rope to pull out the brace from a distance, then used the rope again, to pull out the cut piece.

Now that this has been cut shorter, the tree can be pulled out with the van, once we have something we can use to safely haul it out. We do actually have chain handing around but 1) I won’t want to use chain, because if it breaks, the damage could be catastrophic and 2) the chain I’ve found is so big and long, I would have to use a wheelbarrow to bring it over! 😀 At this stage, though, the tree can wait until we get some strong enough rope. It’s also now low enough that I could remove the rope that was wrapped around the trunk, from when I tried to get it to roll off the branches it’s stuck on.

The four foot length was moved to join the others by the main garden beds. Then I took down the third dead tree in this group.

This tree was a fair bit thinner than the other two, and was faster to cut down. When it fell, it landed on the stuck tree, which basically guided it away from the trees it’s stuck on, and down to the cherry trees.

All of those cherry trees will be cleared away, as they are not right for our climate zone, so the first order of business was to start clearing enough of those away that we could access the trunk. Dead branches were also cleared off the trunk. Then, while I continued to clear more of the cherry trees away, using loppers for the thinner ones, and the baby chainsaw for the few larger ones, my daughter started to measure off the trunk to cut the first four foot length.

We got two four foot lengths and a nine foot length before it got too dark to work, so I got these photos this morning.

As with the other two trees, the wood is nice and solid, with no sign of rot. That means, not only will the wood be used to build our high raised beds, but the stump will be used to support a seat or a table.

With so many dead trees to clear away, we’re going to have a lot of those by the time we’re done!

While cutting lengths from the trunk off, we were able to pull the rest of the tree out a bit, but at this point, it’s too hung up on the cherry trees that haven’t been cut away, yet. I had thought to be doing more of that today, but it might have to wait. Pain levels are high, which is no surprise, but as I write this, it is also 30C/86F right now!

One more nine foot length, and I’ll have enough wood to make a raised bed that’s 3 logs high. With how thick the trunks are, that might be high enough! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Why thank you, wind.

While I was working outside with the loppers and lawn mower, in the area we intend to seed with wildflowers, the winds were pretty high. By the time I was done, I was dealing with double ear aches from it. :-/

It has since only picked up. I’ve just come back from a walkabout, picking up fallen branches and closing up the pump shack door that I found blown open.

There was a benefit to the high winds, when it came to the stuck trees I cut down.

One of them broke free and fell all the way down, right were I was intending it to fall! Which means I can start breaking it down to the lengths I want and clearing it out, and can access another dead tree in this group to cut down.

Unfortunately, the bigger tree is on the wrong side of the tree it’s hung up on. The winds are blowing it into the tree instead of away from it.

Getting this one out is going to be an issue. The only direction it can be pulled from is where I’m standing to take the photo. That leaves the stump in the way. A stump I want to keep, to use as the support for a seat or table.

The trunks will be cut into 10 and 4 foot lengths. What I figure I will do is first find something to support the trunk, then cut it at about 4 1/2 feet from the end. That leaves room to trim the end level. The rest of the tree would then be clear of the stump and can be pulled out, once I have something strong enough to pull it with.

Unless the winds shift, and it manages to fall. Unlikely, but one can hope!

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! 🙂

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. 🙂

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

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: spruce grove junk pile

Today is our only “cool” day before things start heating up again. Our high of the day was merely 25C/77F. We’re going to have another few days hovering at or above 30C/86F, so I wanted to get some clean up done while it was still relatively pleasant out.

I decided to clear things out to uncover the woodchuck’s den opening, under the junk pile.

This was a job I’d deliberately left for a while, as there were kittens in the junk pile and I didn’t want to scare them. Plus, the spirea and other undergrowth provided them with shade, and things to play with.

Since the kittens have been chased out by the grog, it’s time to clean up!

The first thing was to cut away the spirea and wild roses, until I could remove the old pallet. Since they were just cut to the ground, rather than being pulled up by the roots, the roses will come back next year. Unfortunately, so will the spirea!

Immediately after I took the above picture, a furry little face poked out and looked at me. The grog was home! I imagine he headed out the “back door” on the other side of the pile, as I kept causing a disturbance here.

As I worked my way along the fallen tree, I was able to pull more things up by the roots. The wine barrel planter that I uncovered was not yet collapsed when we first moved here. We used to be able to watch yard cats sitting on it in the winter, sunning themselves. After the pieces collapsed, it became a favourite play area for kittens.

The bushy Chinese elm next to the log are hiding an upright barrel planter.

I also uncovered what looked like a sprinkler hose. I have no idea how long it’s been there, but it appears that the tree fell on top of it. !!

After cleaning up the collapsed barrel planter, it was time to turn my attention to the upright one. On the ground to the right of it, you can see a bit of a red brick. Like other things I’ve found around the yard, I figured I’d be finding more bricks under the planter, once I cleared it out.

The first thing to do was pull out the pieces of wood. I was then able to remove the top metal ring (I’m keeping all of them), but the bottom ring has a smaller diameter, so it had to wait.

I can cut away the Chinese Elm that had been growing in this planter before, and what was growing this year was from the remains of the ones I cut last year. You can almost see the “stumps” that the new growth emerged from.

This is the wood from both barrel planters, plus a few odd pieces I found as well. Since doing a burn would still be stupid dangerous right now, these all went on the junk pile in the outer yard, waiting until we can hire someone to haul it to the dump.

After clearing away the wood and the metal ring, I broke up the soil so that I could take out the roots of the Chinese elm as best we could. Then I started poking around with a garden fork to take out any bricks that I expected to find buried under the planter.

I found a third metal ring, completely buried in the soil.

I also found that it was mostly flat rocks under the planter, not bricks! The one long, concrete brick I found was buried under where the collapsed barrel planter was likely sitting, before it got knocked over.

I find it interesting that care was taken to make sure the planters were on something solid, rather than on bare ground, yet they were sitting there for so long, everything sank into the soil.

After spreading out the soil that was in the planters and filling in the holes I’d made while pulling shrubs out by their roots, I dragged out the hose. I figured it was junk, since it seems to have been sitting there for a long time. I’ve found many hoses scattered about in sheds or the barn, and most of them were so old, they were brittle and cracked. I figured much the same with this, but decided to hook it up to a hose and test it out.

Much to my shock, it actually worked! The couplings were leaking, but all they needed were new rubber washers. There were two hoses together, and they both work. Which means, if we pick up some end caps for them, we can set them up in garden beds, like we currently have the soaker hose at the squash tunnel, for more efficient watering.

It was about this time we reached the hottest part of the day, so I stopped for now.

To get at the stuff where the sprinkler hose was, I’ll need to clear away the underbrush on the other side, then cut up the fallen tree to remove it in pieces.

Which will give me access to the back of the junk pile, too. There appears to be some wire fencing that may actually be usable back there!

This is the next area that needs to be worked on. All the underbrush to the right of the path through the trees needs to cleared out. This will give access to the dead trees that need to be cut down, as well as the back of the junk pile.

Clearly, that junk pile didn’t start out as a junk pile. The wood was carefully stacked and covered with tarps, but then junk got tossed on, the tarps blew off, and now the stacked boards are badly rotted. They’re also very full of nails and screws. !! I’d already cleared underbrush to access this side of the pile of wood, which was used when I worked on what are now the garlic beds, but what I cleared up is now mostly full of thistles. :-/

Where I’m standing to take this photo is about where we plan to build the cordwood practice shed that will become an outdoor bathroom, with composting toilet. We had intended to start work on it last year, but not it will wait until all those dead trees are taken down, since they would need to be felled towards where the shed will be. As it is, the new location for our compost pile, and the beet bed, may be in the way. These are very tall trees!

So that’s progress for today. It isn’t a lot, but it’s amazing how much difference even that little bit makes.

Plus, we now have a couple of “new” sprinkler hoses!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: spruce grove, west side

Today, we continued work cleaning up along the west side of the spruce grove, between the garlic beds and the old outhouse. We haven’t really done anything there since last year.

Here is how it looked before I started.

I could see some poplars in here that would make good upright support posts for the squash arch.

I broke out the little electric chain saw for this job, but only used it once. The rest was just too small, or had too many even smaller things growing around them, so I ended up doing most of the job with the loppers and the baby chain saw.

Here is how it looks now.

Yes, there are even spruces left in the spruce grove!

My goal was to clear enough to reach the apple tree (to the right of the spruce in the middle) and an old, rotten bench.

Yes, there is a bench in there. Can you see it? To the left of the spruce tree in the middle?

There had been cherry suckers growing on either side of the seat. I’ve left it for now, and will clean it out another time. We are finding the remains of benches and seats all over the place. As we work around the yard, we have often found ourselves wishing to have something to sit down on, and plan to put seating areas all over. It’s interesting to find that my parents had already done the same thing! Sadly, none have survived time and the elements.

The apple tree had a lot of things crowding around it – and a piece of tree stuck in its branches!

I cleared as much as I could to the apple tree. The next time I work around here, it’ll be with the chain saw, clearing away the fallen trees. At least for now, the apple tree is open and getting more light. When I dug my way to it last fall, to try it’s apples, I found it quite tasty, and we’re always happy to find a tree with apples that are actually edible! There are way too many that are not. :-/

Several trees were cleared out of this patch of flowers my mother planted, many many years ago. I’d found them while cleaning up the area behind the garden beds, but I don’t think I saw any of them bloom. Now that they have light, I look forward to seeing the flowers!

I also uncovered other flowers. Unfortunately, I had a hard time not stepping on them!

I think one of them might be tiger lilies, but I’m not sure.

I suspect we’ll have quite a few new blooms this summer, now that things are cleared up!

Much of what I took out were suckers of cherry trees, grown up around the remains of older, dead ones. Some were so old and rotted, I could pull them out with my hands.

The big branch on the top of the pile is the piece of tree I pulled out of the apple tree.

We really need to invest in a chipper.


My daughter did short work of cleaning up the poplars I set aside for building material. We not have more than enough larger, stronger ones to be our upright supports for the squash arch.

The smaller and thinner ones will also be used in various ways, including cross pieces and supports on the squash tunnel. My daughter added quite a bit more to this pile, then everything got moved to the stacks by the side of the house, closer to the garden. A nice shady place were we will be able to pre-assemble parts of the squash tunnel.

Temperatures were reaching 27C/81F by the time I headed inside, while my daughter finished the job. The winds were high, which at least made it feel cooler. As I type this, things are getting dark and and even windier. We’ve got severe thunderstorm warnings happening right now – with the potential for hail! Looking at the weather radar, it does look like the worst of it will pass us by, but…

I think it’s time to finish this and shut down the computer. Just in case!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: spruce grove, clearing to the dead trees

Today turned out to be such a hot and sunny day, I took advantage of it to do a bit of work in the spruce grove. Specifically around the dead trees near where we intend to plant the mulberry tree that will be shipped later in the spring.

I normally post the before pictures at the start, and the after pictures near the end, but this time I’m going to set them side by side. It’s the only way I can see the difference 2-3 hours of work resulted in. :-/

Here is the first area, and where the mulberry tree will be planted.

They’re a bit hard to see in the before picture, but there are two steel wheels leaning against the reddish dead tree. Those have joined the “found object” art display for now. 😉 Then there was the remains of what appears to have been a bench made with two logs as support, and another log that I think was just there to sit on.

It must have been a very pleasant place to sit, when they were first set up.

Someone (probably my mother) had gone to some effort to make sure the seats were stable. I found these, under them.

These were under where the bench was, with a group of bricks under where each log would have been. It was a good idea to put the bricks under the logs, but nothing had been done to keep them from sinking into what is essentially composted leaves and spruce needles, so the logs started to rot from below.

It wasn’t until I found these that I realized the other log was intended as a seat, too.

I had to cut away what I thought were two small trees, just to access the area. It wasn’t until I tried to cut them down to ground level that I realized, it wasn’t two trees.

I had to dig out and cut away the roots to get them out, and they were both growing out of the same root, which ran under the bricks.

This was, hands down, the most difficult part of the clean up today. Partly because there were other roots running under the roots I was trying to cut! Some belonged to the dead spruce they were next to, but I later ended up pulling out about 8 feet of root, and never finding out what tree it came from!

While trimming the undergrowth, I realized I need to get thicker gloves than the gardening gloves I’ve been using.

Another reason to encourage the wild roses – they make great security barriers! Those spines go right through ordinary garden gloves!

I don’t mind cutting away the roses for now, though. They will grow back, and with clearing out the other stuff, they should have more sun and space to spread out, too.

It was really hot work, though, so I stopped for a rest in the shade. I look forward to when we set up new seating areas around the yard. It would be much more pleasant than sitting on concrete steps!

With how hot it was feeling, I just had to check the temperature. I was thinking we were certainly about 15C/59F Maybe even approaching 20C/68F


It was 10C/50F

RealFeel, 8C/46F

Yeah. I know. You folks from the south are laughing at me right now! 😀

Meanwhile, the thermometer in the sun room was approaching 30C/86F. I opened the solid doors to allow air circulation through the screen doors, and increased the speed of the ceiling fan, so the onion seedlings would not be too hot!

One of these days, we should set up our own weather station, so we can have more accurate readings!

But I digress…

I did have a visitor while I was taking a break on the stairs.

I love how the woodpecker likes to get to the seeds on the ground by way of the bird feeder’s support. 🙂

Then it was back to clearing away the undergrowth, and working my way towards the stone cross. Here is that section, taken from the same spot I took the first before and after pictures from.

I’m having a hard time seeing the difference between these two pictures. In fact, the “after” picture looks worse, because I didn’t line the angle up the same. :-/ Trust me. I did take out quite a bit of undergrowth in the distance!

In the second picture, you can see the tarp covering the junk pile. The tree beside it is dead, as is the tree my supplies are under. That whole area is full of spirea. It’s better to pull those up by the roots, but I just didn’t have the energy for that, today. Too hot! 😀

I worked more into this area.

In the before picture, I’d already started cleaning up the undergrowth a bit. The row of trees you can see on the right are part of north edge of the spruce grove. My older brother planted those, before I was born. It’s hard to believe they were planted at the same time as the huge spruces on the north edge of the grove, but there were three rows planted, close together. The further into the grove the rows were planted (at a time when the rest of the grove’s trees were in their prime), the less light they got, and the less growth there was. I’d cleaned up along the north side of the grove, taking out a lot of little dead spruces in the process. Hopefully, the more things are cleaned up, the better it will be for the surviving trees.

Most of the large spruces in the pictures are dead, so once those are cleaned up, that will allow a lot more light into here. If their trunks are still solid enough, I want to turn them into supports for benches and maybe a table or two. Over time, more spruces will be transplanted into the spruce grove, as well as more food trees – the mulberry tree being our first – that need the extra protection these spruces will give them. The mulberry tree should grow quite large, and will provide quite a bit of shade, so we need to keep things open around where we plant it. Long term, I want this area to be a pleasant, park-like setting. I will have to keep in mind that the benches and possible tables that I hope to make on the tree trunks nearby will end up covered with berries when the mulberry tree gets bigger! I’ve read warnings that mulberry trees can be quite messy. 😀

I’m sure the birds will clean it up for us, though. 😉

I probably won’t get a chance to work here again for a while, as we are supposed to start snowing tomorrow evening, and it will be a few days before the temperatures warm up again. I want to get the spirea out, in particular – they’re lovely, but very invasive, so we’re keeping them in one area of the yard, and taking them out everywhere else. I know some of what I’ve already taken out today were chokecherry trees. We have lots of those, and it turns out they can be invasive, too! What we really want to clear up around are the Saskatoon bushes. These ones are still healthy, and keeping the area around them clear and open will help keep them that way. They are crowded by spirea and chokecherry right now, so when I work my way to where they are, I will back off until they are in full leaf, or even starting to bloom, so I don’t accidentally cut any down, mistaking them for chokecherry.

Today has been a very deceiving day! It got so hot, and when I was shoveling around those roots, I didn’t hit any ice or frozen ground at all. Quite a few of our garden seeds say to direct sow “as soon as the ground can be worked.” Well, that would be now, but it’s still another month an a half before our last frost date. Not only are we expected to have snow starting tomorrow evening, but we could easily get more snow later in the month, or even in May, so anything we tried to sow would likely not survive.

Which is fine for now. We can’t do anything until the garden soil is delivered! I keep forgetting to call about it. I’m sure the soil is thawed out enough to load into their trucks by now, and I still need someone to come by so we can look at where would be the best places to drop the loads.

I get excited, just thinking about it! 😀 The girls and I are so looking forward to gardening this year!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: Baby chainsaw’s first workout

It was a lovely day today, with the temperature at a glorious 3C/37F. With things still on track for our garden plans, I figured this was a good day to start some clean up and gather the materials that will be used to build trellises, etc.

This meant giving our new baby chainsaw (otherwise known as a cordless pruner, but that’s boring) its first workout, as I took down some of the little poplars along the south fence line of the spruce grove.

I’m just really excited to be able to do this work in March! I think the earliest I’ve ever been able to start this sort of work since we’ve moved here, has been in May.

Before starting, I took the time to clear out a number of branches that fell over the winter. In the process, I found this old bird’s nest on the ground. I left it there. 🙂

Here are the before and after pictures. I’m afraid I didn’t match up my positioning very well! (click on the pictures to see them better)

The larger tree lying on the ground on the left came down last fall, and there’s another hung up in the brush behind it that has been there since before we moved in. The further into the grove we go, the more downed trees and branches there are. Clearing those, and other fire hazards, out is a major goal.

When we had a trail cam on a tree instead of a post, I used to trudge down that foot path, every morning, to switch out the memory card. This area has already seen a fair bit of clean up since we first moved here. The space to the left of the foot path has self-seeding flowers. I figure it would be good to get this done before they start growing again. Once they’re in full bloom, it’s a gorgeous mix of purple and green, almost all the way down.

In the distance of the after picture, you can see several poplars lying on the ground. I was trimming branches off of them when the battery died. I’ve left them there until I can come back to finish the trimming.

Because I goofed on my positioning, the elm tree in the foreground of the second picture is hiding where I cleared out some things between the two big poplars.

From the time it took me to take the before pictures, to the time it took for the battery to run out (which includes the time taken to clear out dead branches first, was only about 50 minutes. In that short time, I did as much as would have taken me at least twice that amount of time, with hand tools. Even using the reciprocating saw took longer.

These are the trimmed poles that will be used for building supports in our various garden beds. There will be quite a bit more, by the time I’m done clearing this area.

That baby chain saw made the job SO much faster and easier! And it was surprisingly quiet, and downright fun to use! I can certainly see why these things are selling out so quickly. The only down side is that the little bitty battery doesn’t last very long. I’d estimate about half an hour of cutting time in total. So having a second battery is going to be a necessity, and with the work I am expecting to do over the next few months, a third certainly won’t be overkill!

I still have to leave some of the larger stumplings to go back and cut to ground level later, with a larger cutting tool. Not as many as I’d expected to, though.

I’m now eagerly awaiting the battery charge, in hopes that I’ll be able to take it out again this evening! 😀 Mind you, I could go out with manual tools, if I really wanted to, but they’re stored in the sun room with Ginger, so I’ll wait for the charger.

That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Tree Star

I made a mistake, when writing about these trees, yesterday.

In this photo, the red lines mark the dead spruces. Counting the one by the garage, that makes a dozen trees on this side of the spruce grove, to take down.

I missed one. It can’t actually be seen in this photo, because it’s behind other trees. I didn’t notice becase I had the right number of trees that I’d counted before, not realizing that when I had been in the spruce grove, counting the dead trees, I missed the one that is in the far right of the photo, because I could see if from where I was standing at the time. It has a live tree growing next to it, and has some live branches wrapped around it.

This is one of the clusters of three trees that I’d mentioned (the broken tree in the foreground is the one that’s closest to the house). When my daughters and I were walking around in this area, I clued in that one of these dead trees is the one with the extension cord wrapped around it.

You can see what the extension cord is there for. There is a wooden star with lights on it, facing the roads. At Christmas, we would run a cord from the house to this tree to plug it in.

My late brother put that there. Best guess, I’d say it’s been up there for as long as 40 years.

My daughters and I joked about plugging it in to see if it worked, but we’d never do it. With how many breaks there are in the cord, just where we can see it, plugging it in could very well cause a fire!

So… that’s 13 dead trees on this side of the spruce grove that need to come down, plus the other 5 I found at the other end, that can wait.

It’s getting so that there aren’t that many spruces left in the spruce grove!!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 Garden: plotting

A while back, I used a satellite image to plan where we could plant our garden this year.

Getting a gasp of dimensions was difficult on this, though, but at least it could be used as a guide. Things need to be pretty flexible at this point, anyhow.

With the snow clearing away, we have been getting into the areas and realized that there was a lot more room to the West of the existing beds than there appeared to be, in the satellite image.

Here is the areas with the existing beds where we had planted squash last year.

The perspective makes it look a bit strange.

Two years ago, the area where the green marked beds are was mulched with straw, then covered with black … tarps? Possibly landscaping fabric? Whatever it was we salvaged when cleaning up the old wood pile. That log marks one of the corners of the area we mulched. This made a HUGE difference in the workability of the soil when we planted last year, as well as killing off a lot of the grass and weeds. This area was no longer hard as concrete, and could actually be worked, though we did still dig out pockets to fill with a soil mix that we could transplant into, because of all the rocks.

The long bed in the back has bamboo poles marking where I’d stuck the seed potatoes found last fall that, for some reason, didn’t sprout but still looked completely fresh. There is one more potato than I had poles to mark the spots with. 😀 When the garden was prepped for winter, that bed was actually widened a bit, so even if the potatoes do miraculously start to grow, there is room for something in front. Which will probably not be use this year, but it’s an option. If we are unable to get rid of that row of self-sown trees, then we will likely create a series of long, narrower, bed with trellises on the North side, for any climbing plants we decide to grow in the future.

Then there are the three beds down the middle, which used to be pumpkin mounds, with longer beds on either side. The three beds down the middle are all the about same size, while the two on either end are almost exactly the same size as each other. With our current plan, the three smaller beds in the middle will have our three varieties of spinach, while the larger beds on either side will have two of our varieties of onions, which in turn will probably be interplanted with other things. Possible kale and kholrabi, as the onions will help protect them from insects. We shall see.

In the back of the photo is a purple block which is where we are planning to plant the Montana Morado corn. That leaves a surprisingly large space (in orange) that didn’t get marked on the satellite image, where we can plant something else. Perhaps one of the three bush bean varieties can go there.

After we dig out the huge rock that’s half buried in there. When this area was plowed last, the person who did it went around the rock, creating a hill in one area, and a low spot in the other. :-/ This is one of the roughest areas of the entire old garden space. Even where the Montana Morado corn will be planted in ridiculously rough.

As you can see, there is a substantial area in shadow, so there is quite a bit of space that can only have shade loving plants. Most of what we have requires full sun, and even the cool weather plants still need more sun than those areas get. An unplanned consequence of my parents crowding more and more trees into what used to be part of the garden.

Still, it is here that we are intending to make permanent, accessible, raised bed gardens. The plots we have now do not have the dimensions needed for that (which must include the paths as well as the raised beds), so even here, everything we do is temporary. One of the reasons this area was chosen for permanent gardening is its nearness to a water source, and to the house itself. Accessible raised beds will also be high enough to address the shadow problem, at least somewhat.

Now to the other side…

In the foreground is one of the old squash beds marked off in the earlier photo. The smaller two beds are where we had potatoes last year, and where we hope to plant the shallots and bunching onions, if the seedlings survive. Those two beds are a bit under 4″x8″ in size (or a little more than 1m x 2m), to give you some perspective.

All the orange area will be for new garden beds. Most of it was part of the old garden that had been plowed before we moved here. Of that space, the only area that has seen and mulching was where we planted the sunflowers. As with the squash, we dug holes and filled them with a soil mix, in which we planted the sunflowers, because of how hard and full of rocks the soil is. As we were able, we added grass clippings around the seedlings for mulch.

The furthest we’d planted the sunflowers are almost to the very end of the row of crab apple trees. Again, for perspective, we could just barely reach those ones with 260′ of garden hose – almost 80 meters.

Way in the back, at the corner, there is a large L shape inside the orange area that has never had any garden in it. We will be working this area for gardening for the first time. I would estimate the orange area, along the edge on the right, near the old potato beds, to be probably 250′, or about 76 meters, long. The far end, along the fence line, is probably 300’/91m.

Funny. It sounds so much bigger when I write that down. When I’m standing in the middle of it, remembering the garden of my childhood, it feels very… small.

The orange area gets full sun, up until you get close to the crab apple trees that are beyond the right edge of the photo. It gets very hot and dry, so we will have our work cut out for us to grow the corn, sunflowers, beans, peas, melons, radishes, summer and winter squash, and gourds we intend to plant there. Getting water that far out from the house is going to be the biggest challenge.

Part of the goal in breaking soil here is for the future planting of nut trees. Many varieties do very well in poor conditions, but not all. Any improvement of the soil will give them a better chance of survival, and when we’re talking about something that may not produce for at least ten years, any losses have much longer term effects.

The orange area closest to the green areas may become part of the permanent garden beds on this side of the house, but that has yet to be determined. Our plans still need to be very flexible at this point.

After taking these photos this morning, I also took photos of the spruce grove areas we need to work on.

Here are out garlic beds. Another bed will be created to the left, near the current compost ring location. There will likely be beets grown there.

The mess of little trees beyond the garlic beds all need to be cleared out. The ones with whitish trunks are poplar trees, and there are many, many, MANY more of them growing towards the garage, and then down towards the road. They also keep trying to come up in the yard. I had not realized how invasive they could be! These will become the materials to build trellises and arbors for our climbing plants.

The darker colours stems that you see are mostly cherry, from a parent plan from Poland. Something we saw happen since we’ve moved here, and probably happens often, is that the cherries start to bloom quite early in the spring, as soon as it warms up. This, however, is Canada, not Poland, and they got hit by a late frost. This killed off the trees that had bloomed. New shoots, however, come up from the base. So what we’ve got is a lot of dead cherry trees, surrounded by immature new growth.

Cherry trees, we’ve learned, also spread by their roots. I had to deal with that while clearing out the area under the old wood pile, so we could plant carrots, beets and parsley here, last year.

So we’ve decided all of that is going to be cleaned out, as far back as we can. It’s a huge area, and the clean up will likely be done in stages over several years. We don’t want to take too long on that, though, because this is where we would like to plant berry bushes and fruit trees.

Then there’s this area…

Every red line marks a dead spruce tree. The two on the left, by the junk pile, are the ones closest to the house that we were already looking to hire someone to take down for us, along with the dead spruce by the garage and outhouse. Counting that one, there’s a dozen dead spruces that need to be taken down, before they fall down, in this area. There are also plenty of fallen trees that need to be cleaned up, along with the junk pile and the spirea (which is hiding at least one, maybe two, fallen trees). There are Saskatoon bushes beyond the junk pile that we want to clean up around, including removing some chokecherries, which will provide them with the air flow and sunshine they need to thrive. So far, none of these has shown signs of disease.

In the middle of the photo, tucked into where there are so many dead trees, is where we planned to plant the mulberry tree that’s set to arrive later in the spring, in time for planting in our zone. We chose this location, because it’s a zone 4 tree and needs the protection the other trees will provide (the ones still alive, anyhow), and still get a lot of sunlight. With so many dead trees to take down first, however, I’m almost thinking we might want to put it in a pot until next year!

In the foreground, behind the compost ring, is where we intend to build the cordwood outdoor bathroom. I had been upset that we were not able to at least get started on leveling a foundation for it last year, due mostly to the excessive heat, but now that I’ve realized how many dead trees there are, I’m glad it didn’t happen. Any one of those trees could come down in a storm or high winds. Can you imagine doing all that work to build a cordwood shed, only to have a tree fall on it?

Oh, and along with these, I was able to make my way through the spruce grove near the fence line and take a closer look. I found five more dead trees. Those ones are not as urgent to take down, though. It’s the ones near the house and garage that have priority. Of course, there are the trees that have already fallen that need to be cleaned out, too. Focus that far out, however, will be on the south end of the spruce grove, along the driveway, where there are almost no spruces left. Lots of little poplars to take out, and probably some larger ones, too, and lots of underbrush, fallen trees and dead branches to clear away. Only then can we figure out if the crab apple trees my mother planted in there can be salvaged. They’re not as overshadowed as the other ones I found near the maple grove, but last spring, I only saw one branch bloom, and no apples produced. I think I would rather take those out and transplant more spruces in that area, and save the fruit trees for better locations. There are a number of little, self-sown spruce trees that I would rather transplant than get rid of. I’ve had to kill enough trees while cleaning up, already, and will have to do more. If transplanting some is an option, I will be happy to take it!

So those are our plans to work on for this year.

Let’s see how many of them actually work out!

The Re-Farmer