Our 2021 garden: squash tunnel, day 3, and progress

We managed to get outside for a bit more progress on the garden. One of the things I did was go through where we planted sunflowers last year, and dig out any remaining stumps. I am really impressed with how much softer the soil is. Well. When I managed to not hit any rocks, at least. 😉 I think using this area for the summer squash will work out. We just have to fight back the grass and weeds. :-/

Not yet, though. The new corn block will be the priority for transplanting.

This area has been covered with black tarp for at least 2 months. Almost, but not quite, enough to kill off the grass and weeds.

This area is remarkably rough, though. I had the hardest time mowing on this side, without hitting rocks or lumps of dirt. Partly because of this, I will be going things differently. I will actually be turning the soil here. Nothing extreme. Mostly just loosening it with a garden fork, while pulling out the larger roots and rocks. Once it’s loosened up, I plan to go over it with a thatching rake (we only have 1 thatching rate, and a bunch of fan rakes, so that’s the tool I’ll use! 😀 ). That should pull up more roots, but mostly I want to level it off enough that I’m not tripping over dirt clumps every time I walk through!

I had gotten a start on loosening the soil at one end, when one of my daughters was able to join me. Together, we got to work on the squash tunnel.

We were able to get all the side cross pieces in place at the tops. A job that was much more difficult than it looks!

I may have mentioned this before, but… we’re a bit on the short side.

Oy, did that make a difference!

My daughter held the cross pieces in place while I climbed the ladder to drill the pilot holes, then put in the screws. It was very awkward and painful for her – especially with her gimpy shoulder! – to try and hold the pieces steady until I had the screws in far enough that she could relax. Some of the uprights had shifted, too, so not only was she holding a cross piece in place, above her head, but sometimes holding an upright in place as well. The fact that everything was different sizes and shapes didn’t help, either. Doing this in 27C/81F heat, and winds high enough to blow over the step ladder, certainly didn’t make things any easier.

Also, we really need a power screwdriver. Driving in 3 inch screws manually, while someone else was struggling to hold the pieces together, was another thing that made the job more difficult than expected!

But we got it done!

It is still incredibly wonky, of course. Good thing it’s not intended to be permanent! We also didn’t use as many screws as I intended. For some joins, it was because the pieces were not of a size or shape to add more than one screw. With others, we just needed to get it in place and move on to the next, due to how painful or awkward it was for my daughter to support the cross pieces.

I now need to cut cross pieces for the bottoms. When I put those in, I will take the time to add extra screws were they are needed at the top. If necessary, I’ll add extra support pieces at the corners, but I think once we add the wire mesh for the vines to climb, that will help stabilize it a bit more, too. I’m actually not sure how we will get the mesh over the top.

Did I mention we’re short? LOL

At least it’ll be easier to put in the bottom cross pieces.

When we did as much as we could, I was ordered by my daughter to head indoors and out of the sun. Apparently, I was looking rather overheated!

So I am taking a bit of a break in the cool of the house. By the time I get outside again, more of the corn block I want to work on will be in shade, so that will help. I’m hoping to be able to get the corn transplants out by the end of tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be helping my mother with her grocery shopping earlier than usual, so that should work out.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: squash tunnel, day two

Well, I’d hoped we could actually finish the squash tunnel today, or at least get the side cross pieces at the top done, but we didn’t get quite that far.

But, progress was still made.

Most importantly, we got the supports up in the post holes.

In refilling the post holes and tamping the soil down, a few of them did need to have more soil added. A good way to reduce some of the lumps in the old garden, left from when it was last plowed before we moved here.

It’s very… rustic looking. That’s a trend now, right? 😀

And no, that middle pole isn’t actually tilted. The tree it’s made from is bent. All the pieces are wonky in shape! 😀

It’s also still very flimsy right now. Joining them at the sides with cross pieces should fix that.

It was already starting to get hot by the time this was done, so we took advantage of the morning shade to transplant the Mongolian Giant sunflowers. It wasn’t until evening that I was able to work on the next step for the squash tunnel. I cut a total of 8 of the 16 cross pieces needed at 5’6″, then trimmed matching flat pieces at each end.

I also trimmed one side of the flattened ends a bit; just enough to have a narrow flat surface on what will be the top.

The flat parts are intended to butt up against the upright and the top cross piece. It will wait until tomorrow, but the plan is to screw the cross pieces to the upright, then add one more screw through the top cross piece, down into the side piece – and hopefully not hit another screw in the process. This should give it some more stability. The other 8 cross pieces will be attached a few inches from the bottoms, which should strengthen it even more, as well as provide a place to attach mesh for the vines to climb.

There are a couple of problems we need to figure out how to get around, to finish the job. We do have a cordless drill, but both batteries no longer hold a charge, and the company doesn’t make them anymore. Until we get around to buying a new one, we have several corded drills to choose from. Getting extension cords to reach this far, though… that’s going to take a bit! We have a pair of 100′ extension cords, which won’t reach reach from the outdoor outlet on the side of the house. I remember how far I could reach while using the electric weed trimmer, and three extension cords. We’ve since gotten more cords, so I think we’ll have enough to reach around the structure.

The next challenge is, we’re short. Well, except my husband, and he’s broken. 😉 To be able to drill a pilot hole through the stop cross piece will require clambering up and down a step ladder. For our gimpy household, that is somewhat risky!

But, it’ll need to be done. With this structure, we can’t get away with tying the cross pieces on with twine, like with the pea trellises.

With 5 uprights and 4 cross pieces per side, only two cross pieces can be placed up against the overhangs at the top, so each side will have two cross pieces mounted just under the other two. Which will hopefully also contribute to the stability. If that’s not enough, we’d have to add supports on the inside of the corners, and I really don’t want to get that finicky with a temporary structure.

We may not have finished the squash tunnel, but we accomplish other things, but that is for my next post! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: squash tunnel build, day one

Not that long ago, we were dealing with freezing temperatures. Now we’ve got a heat wave!

Today’s high was predicted to be 24C/77F. Instead, we reached 28C/82F. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be 28C… does that mean we’ll be going to break 30C/86F? 😦

Hot as it was, we needed to get started on the squash tunnel. Thankfully, we could at least work in mostly shade.

The first thing to do was go through our pile of poplar we’ve cleared out of the spruce grove, and pick the strongest, straightest ones. Straight for the first 7 feet, at least!

The upright supports were cut to 7 feet, but there was still enough from each of them to cut cross pieces at 5 1/2 feet. Of those, the strongest ones were selected, and at least 3 inches was trimmed from each end to have a narrower, flattish part to attach to the uprights.

While preparing to screw the pieces together, I found our first wood tick of the season! We ended up finding a couple more, later on.

Time to dig out the bug spray to go with the sun screen… 😦

The uprights need to be 5 feet apart, and the cross pieces were to be attached to their tops. I measured out and shoved some sticks into the ground as guides. The bottoms of the uprights would be centered at the pegs at their based, while the tops would be placed with the two sticks at the top on the outsides, to have them lying parallel at 5 feet. The cross piece could then be laid out and the flat sides lined up to the tops. Pilot holes were then drilled and they were screwed in place.

Which sounds a lot easier than it actually was. A few cross pieces needed extra trimming to rest against tops of the uprights. Sometimes, the uprights needed to be turned until they all fit together as flush as possible. Still, it got done.

There they are! Five sets up upright supports for the squash tunnel! They just needed to be dragged out to where the squash tunnel will be set up.

At this point, they are very rickety. Unfortunately, with some of the screws pulled right out of the wood, so we had to redo them with longer screws. Which, thankfully, we had!

By this point, we’d reached that 28C/82F, so once we finished with these, we packed everything away and went indoors to get out of the heat for a few hours. The next stage was to dig the post holes, and there wasn’t any shade to be had, so we waited.

When I finally did head out, I first took the time to water the garden beds and blocks from the rain barrel by the peas. I was able to use the watering can to water everything but the Dorinny corn before the barrel was too low for me to refill the watering can anymore.

While I was watering, I found a friend.

Such a cute little frog!!

Then it was time to start the post holes. Each spot was marked with a flag, so I started by using the space to stab out a circle around each flag, then moving it so I could remove the sod. Once the sod was out, I went in with a hand trowel to take out the bigger rocks, then used a lopper to take out the many roots I found.

I had company.

I love how Rolando Moon will just hang out while we’re working outside. She doesn’t want us to pay attention to her. She just wants to be close by. She even settled down for a nap!

Finally, I brought over the post hole digger and got to work. It’s pretty much a one person job, so the girls took care of the evening watering, refilled the rain barrel by the peas, and watered the last corn block. Once the barrel was full, I decided to set up the sprinkler over the corn and sunflower blocks, to make sure the seeds got the moisture they need to germinate. Going over them with the watering can may or may not have been enough, so I wanted to make sure they got a thorough soaking while I continued digging post holes.

All done! Ten post holes, all 5 feet apart.

That was it for today!!

Getting those supports in will be a three person job. Particularly since they are still so wonky. Two people will be needed to place the supports into the holes, while the third person will back fill the holes. They will still be rather fragile until the cross pieces are added to the sides. We weren’t able to pick up a cordless drill on this month’s budget, so we’re going to have to string together a whole bunch of extension cords to drill the pilot holes! The cross pieces at the top should have enough extra length that we can put a screw through them, into the side cross pieces, too. We’re all short, though, so we’ll need a step ladder to do that!

I want to add cross pieces near the bottoms of each side, too. We’ll need a total of 16 pieces to do tops and bottoms of both sides, and then we can put either wire mesh or netting for the vines to climb up and over the tunnel. Then, we can start making the beds themselves, to transplant the winter squash, gourds and melons into. These will be on the outside of the tunnel supports only, keeping the tunnel nice and wide on the inside. If all grows well, it should create a nice shaded space that we can put chairs in, to rest and enjoy while tending the garden. 🙂

Next on the list are the beds for the summer squash, and the block for the Montana Morado corn. They’re getting quite big in their cups, and hardening off nicely. I hope they handle being transplanted okay! I do with the toilet paper tubes had worked out. That would have been much better and less disruptive to the roots. Well, we’ll know for next time: pre-soak the growing medium before putting it into the tubes!

The next week or so is going to be very, very busy!

The Re-Farmer