We have berries! and stuff I forgot

While bringing the plants indoors, my daughter remembered to shake the blooming Wonderberry plants against each other, to give them a chance to pollinate. I still don’t know of they’re self pollinating our not, but we’re doing it just in case. Then my daughter commented that it seems to be working. We have berries.

What????

It turns out all three of the plants are starting to form berries!

Of course, my camera didn’t want to focus on the ones I was trying to get a picture of. After the photo was uploaded, I noticed more I hadn’t seen.

The instructions I found for these said to start them indoors very early, which we did. Now it’s looking like they were started way too early! I have no idea how they will handle being transplanted outdoors, which still won’t happen for at least a week and a half.

They are looking strong and healthy in their pots. Though we did pot them up into larger pots that can be directly buried into the ground, they’ve gotten quite large, and now those pots look so small!

There’s not much we can do about that for now. We’ll just have to see how they do.

While uploading the picture of the berries, I realized I’d forgotten another picture I took of something I FINALLY managed to get done, while tending the burn barrel. I cut away the trees that were growing around, under and through the old Farm Hand tractor sitting in the outer yard. My brother thinks it can be fixed up, so I wanted to make sure it doesn’t end up like so many other old and abandoned antique equipment lying around.

I was able to get most of it cleared with a pair of loppers, including one surprisingly large maple that was growing through the engine compartment. There was one large maple in the back that I had to come back with the mini-chainsaw to cut away. This one was not only larger than all the others, it had formed around part of the tractor.

The dents in the trunk piece are from growing around the bottom corner of the hydraulic fluid tank, and the hose attached to it.

Maple suckers will grow back, but it will be easier to keep clear, now that the big ones are out.

It’s a shame no one’s been able to keep this old crank-start tractor up. It’s been sitting so long, you can see lichen growing on the tank! There’s lichen growing all over it. As you can see, the hoses are degrading, too, and it’s all rusted. The front end loader attachment is so covered with moss and grasses, I can’t even tell which attachment is on it.

I’m glad I managed to at least get this job done. It’s been on my to-do list for three years!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: trees in the old garden

We had such a lovely day today, even with fairly high winds, that I couldn’t resist going outside and doing a bit of clean up. This time, I decided to work in the old garden area.

As we clean up around the property, there is one thing I find myself struggling with that I did not expect.

Trees.

In the decades I was away, my parents slowly reduced the size of their gardening, which made perfect sense. Unfortunately, at the same time, they planted trees. Poorly placed trees, many of which I am now having to cut down for various reasons, while trying to save as many as I can. At the same time, they also allowed self sown trees to grow where they really shouldn’t have. Some of them now need to be removed because they are causing damage. Others… well. Let me show you.

This is the before picture.

My mother had a row of raspberry bushes here. Elms and maples had self-sown among them. When my mother transplanted the raspberries (into an area that’s full shade!), she left the self-sown saplings. For a “wind break” she told me. The garden used to extend another 6 feet or so to the north. As they are now, the trees take up a space about 10-12 ft (3-3.6m) wide, and about 100 ft (30.5m) long.

That’s a lot of square feet of full sun garden space that can no longer be used.

Between these and the shade created by the trees they’d planted into the garden area on the south side, huge amounts of garden space have been taken out of production. Space that’s the closest to the house and water.

When I brought up taking them out and reclaiming the garden space, my mother was adamant that they not be touched. Apparently, if we take them out, we won’t have any wind break anymore or something, even though there are plenty of other trees and the lilac hedge to shelter us from Northern winds. :-/

Well, we’re not in a position to actively remove the trees quite yet, though the arborists recommended taking them out while they’re still small enough to be pulled out by the roots with a tractor. While trying to garden near these on one side, and tend the lawn on the other, I figured the least that should be done is to trim and clear them.

Yes, I know. This is probably the worst time of year to be trimming trees, but these are not trees we plan to save. They’ll do just fine, though. In fact, they’ll probably thrive. :-/

Starting at the end I took the photo at, I worked at it using both the baby chainsaw (aka: cordless pruner) and the long handled pruners. Loppers, I think they’re actually called. I used those quite a bit, because the branches and suckers were so dense, I couldn’t get in with the baby chainsaw to cut where I needed to. Which is fine. It reserved battery power for the pieces too large for the loppers. I got about 1 1/2 hours in before the battery died, then I continued for another half hour or so with the loppers.

Here is how it looks now.

That log that is now visible marks the corner of the mulched area we gardened in last year. I cleared until just past that log.

This is my branch pile.

I at first tried to trim the larger pieces and set them aside for potential use later, but that was taking up too much time, so I just added to the pile. When it’s time to deal with the pile, it will be easier to use hand pruners to trim any larger branches that might be usable for other things. The smallest pieces will go onto a chipping pile.

I did use pruning paint on the cut ends of the trees, though the maples were pouring so much sap, a lot of it was washed away! The elm sap isn’t running yet.

For all my mother’s admonitions to leave the trees alone, I found evidence that I was not the first to try cutting these away. In fact, some of what I found were growing out of stumps. Someone had tried cutting them down, and they grew back.

I also found this little group.

Three elms growing into each other! We couldn’t see this until I cleared things away. In fact, I couldn’t stand in the spots I was in to take the photos, either.

I worked on a maple just past this group of elms and found myself pulling out large strands of vines as well. The rest of the section has more of these vines. My mother had planted them (not here!) years ago, not realizing they were invasive. Now they’re spreading all over, and I’ve found at least a couple of trees that have been killed by them. So I stopped to continue another day, since more time will need to be spent pulling up these vines, which will need to be burned.

The irony of pulling up vines that are killing trees we plan to get eventually get rid of is not lost on me!

By the time I’m done with these, we should be able to walk through and around the trees without having to fight branches. I’ll even be able to mow past them without branches pulling off my hat!

Hopefully, their roots won’t make gardening near them too much of an issue. Eventually, we do plan to build some permanent, high raised beds in this area closer to the house, so it won’t be an issue for long. When we build the permanent garden beds to the south of the house, that will be where we will focus more on things that take longer to mature and get harvested in the fall, while areas closer to the house will be more kitchen garden type things that mature quickly, or have a continuous harvest.

Little by little, it’s getting done! 🙂

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

Winterizing: clearing an old roof

One of the things I’ve been wanting to get done in the outer yard, was to clear some trees from what used to be a chicken coop, when I was a kid. Getting things done in the outer yard has now been pushed back another year, but the last wind storm we had left more damage to the roof. It’s a job that needed to get done sooner, rather than later!

Since this involved some rather larger trees, I figured I would finally use the chain saw I got repaired last year!

Of course, I had to test start it, first. It’s been a very long time since I’ve used a gas powered chain saw, so I appreciated that it has each step written out, right on the machine.

Oops.

Yeah. I pulled on the knob, and the whole piece broke off!

So much for using a chain saw.

This meant dragging out a 100 ft extension cord and the reciprocating saw, instead.

This is what it looked like before I started.

Someone went through all the effort to cover the original roof with corrugated steel, only to have so many pieces get torn off, because no one cut back the self-seeded maples.

This is not a small tree, either!

Yeah, I had to cut my way through burrs, first, just to reach it!

The other corner had tree problems, too.

You can see how both sections of tree are rubbing against the corrugated steel. On the side, it at least bent into a more rounded shape…

This one was growing around a sharp end!

I started off cutting the lower branch that was tearing the metal sheets off on the south side, then trimming it back, bit by bit, until I had to cut the trees from this side, to be able to reach the rest.

This is where they were rubbing against the roof.

Once the smaller ones were clear, I could reach more of the larger tree and get that one clear, too.

I had to move other things around, too. The sheet of metal is still buried somewhere; I could only lift and bend part of it to get access. I am not sure, but I think roots have grown over the buried end. !!

After I reached this point, I spent some time trimming branches and cleaning up.

This is where I stopped for the night. I might not take the rest of the trunk down. I haven’t decided, yet. Left alone, all of the stumps will start growing again, and I really want to prevent that. This log building is remarkably solid, and it’s the only log building left that isn’t collapsing outright, so we really want to protect it as much as we can, until we can possibly even restore it.

I don’t know what to do about this section of roof, though. We might have some sheets of metal roofing material large enough to use, lying about, but no safe way to get up there. I will have to consult with my brother. We likely can’t do anything until next year, but with the branches gone, it will at least not get ripped apart in high winds, anymore.

It’s hard to see, but in the tall grass are piles of smaller, thinner branches I trimmed off.

These larger branches have been set aside to be trimmed, and I will keep the larger pieces.

Some logs are already trimmed and set aside – including a pile of wonky shapes, in the back!

Maple is quite a heavy wood to drag around! That last, biggest piece of trunk was pretty awkward to move, too. It is, however, large enough that I might be able to get some long, shallow bowls out of it. I’ve ordered a gouge that I can use to carve deeper than with what I have now, and I hope to be able to carve some cups as well as small, deeper bowls. I might be able to do some small dishes, too.

I clear branches off differently now, compared when we were first clearing trees away. I no longer cut smaller branches right at the main branch. Now I leave longer pieces that may end up being the handles for ladles, or long handled spoons, with the crook of the branch being the bowl for ladle or spoon.

A lot of this wood, in a variety of sizes and shapes, will end up in the basement for potential future projects. Some pieces will join the apple wood by the fire pit, and what’s left will go into the piles for chipping.

I was losing light by this point, so I will continue tomorrow. By the time I put all the tools away, it was full dark – and only 5:30 by the time I got inside! It felt like 8 or 9. 😀

If all goes productively, I’ll be able to clear more, smaller, maples that are growing up against the pump shack, giving access to the windows the cats broke. Some of the mamas have had their kittens in there. One of the windows was only half a window. The other half had a board with a hole cut in it for a stove pipe. My brother took the stove itself away, because it was getting damaged. The cats had been jumping through the hole for the stove pipe, but over time, the stress of that finally broke the other side. Meanwhile, another window lost its pane when I walked into the pump shack, not knowing a cat was in there. The poor thing panicked and jumped through part of the window. 😦 At least it was an old, single pane window that was barely holding together already, so the cat was completely uninjured.

We’ll see what we can find to patch those up, tomorrow.

The Re-Farmer

Internet status

Soooo… a few things happened today.

Long story short, we are still down to just one account.

Long story long…

First, we got a call from the tech guy, saying that he would be here between 1 and 3pm to see what’s going on with our secondary internet account.

Second, we got our ebill for the month.

Yeah. Over $550. They charged us $2 a gig in overage fees, even though my husband had been told they wouldn’t.

Which is when he had a conversation with them!

At first, they tried to say they couldn’t credit us the amount, or credit us for the account we couldn’t use all month that we paid for, anyway.

So he told them to cancel the secondary account.

Well, they couldn’t credit the whole amount, but they could credit us $10 a month for 6 months.

He told them to cancel the secondary account.

He got put on hold while she went to see what she could do.

In the end, he agreed to a credit of $20 a month for 6 months. Which basically covers the cost of the secondary account for a month.

After all the huge expenses we had this month, like having to get a new lawn mower and new washing machine, among other things, plus we’ve still got the rest of the bill for my mom’s car to pay soon, we’ll be paying this bill down slowly for a while. I’d already budgeted a higher amount for the bill, but not that much!!

Meanwhile, we still had the tech guy coming out.

Shortly after noon, I headed out to unlock the gate – just in time for him to pull into our driveway! Yup, he arrived almost an hour early. We got a good laugh over my being there to unlock it at just the right time. 🙂

He started off by bringing in his own router to test with. While he did his best to make sure he wouldn’t disconnect us from the one account that was still working, if badly, my daughter stopped working, just in case. The last thing she needed was to be in the middle of something, and suddenly, no internet. So she and I started on the picnic table.

The tech ended up switching modems, changing connectors, changing the entire cable, replacing the receiver on the satellite itself, all while constantly checking and rechecking the signal we were getting.

He was actually getting negative numbers. Which never seen before. I mean, if there’s no signal, it should be zero, but to get negatives?

He was at it for about three hours, in 25C/77F heat, with the humidex at about 30C/86F, in full sun on the roof, and not even a breeze!

Thankfully, we had just picked up a case of van water, and what didn’t fit in the cooler in the van, I brought to the house. I had some nice, cold water bottles to give him!

He did everything he could, and nothing worked.

That one dish is just not getting a signal.

In the end, there was just one thing left, and it was not something he could do.

I identified a specific tree branch that might be causing the problem.

It was actually one I’d narrowed it down to, myself, though partly because it’s the one we can reach to try.

I was ready to just grab a ladder and take it down right away.

Thankfully, my daughter stopped me.

This is the trunk of that tree.

Do you see those holes?

The elms are all riddled with them.

They are made by bald faced hornets. Which are wasps that burrow into trees to make their nests.

That’s right. The tree itself is the nest.

In the fall, they all die. The ones that hatch, build a nest elsewhere.

The tree we’d already pruned huge branches from had been a nest last year, but is empty now.

The year before, they had been in this tree, but in other branches.

This year, their nest is this branch.

Now, these wasps are actually pretty docile. They will leave you alone, if you leave them alone. They are not aggressive. In fact, they are desirable, as they keep down other insects.

If, however, you F* them up, they will F* you up.

Cutting down the branch that is their nest is about as F’ing them up as you can get.

The guy was still hear as my daughter explained all this, which I think he appreciated. He may well need that information at someone else’s place, in the future!

Which reminds me…

I had talked to him earlier about how the satellites had worked for the past while, and that the trees themselves actually have a lot less branches than before. We can tell when the branches are a problem during high winds, as they block and unblock the signal. So when he told me which particular branch he thought my be the problem, we also talked about what to do if we took the branch down, and it still didn’t work!

After he was gone, we had a talk about it.

One option is to pick up a whole lot of wasp and hornet killer, spray the branch, then cut it down. The problem with that is, this isn’t an external nest like with paper wasps that we can spray. The nest is inside the branch, and it’s very unlikely we’d be able to kill them all. We’d probably have to empty 3 cans over the length of the branch, and hope the contact kill gets the ones we miss.

Unlike the paper wasps, though, we don’t actually want to get rid of these guys. These ones are “good guys”. Plus, they will die on their own in the fall. Until then, they will help keep actual problem insects down.

My daughter suggested we just get used to having one account for a while, then take the branch down after the tree stops buzzing.

So tomorrow, my husband will call our provider back and ask them to suspend the account for now. We’ll just have a small fee each month, instead. If we keep paying what we normally budget at the same time, we’ll pay off the current bill much, much faster, too.

In a couple of months, we should be able to remove the branch, then ask them to activate the account again and see if it worked. If not, it’s time to call someone to come out again. Which is what the “care” charge on our bill covers.

Until then, we just have to keep rationing our internet usage, and get used to having horrible internet. The guy did check the primary account, too, and it was working fine, though as I type this I’m noticing we have lost internet again.

Oh, it’s back.

Anyhow.

So I’m kinda feeling really lucky right now. I had been eyeballing that tree and thinking of that one branch that was most likely to be at least part of the problem. I was thinking of just taking it down, and even decided on where to cut it, so that new branches growing out of the remains would still provide shade.

I just never got around to doing it.

When going under the tree, you can hear buzzing, but I’d never been able to see where the buzzing was coming from. My daughter was able to point it out, and you can actually see the wasps crawling around. If I had cut that branch, once it crashed to the ground, I would probably have been swarmed.

I seemed to have really dodged a bullet on that one!

So that’s where we stand now.

Given that my husband already got them to credit us for the next 6 months, they might balk at suspending the account. Still, it’s not the same as cancelling it, and I would hope that they would be understanding once he tells them why we have to wait before we can take the branch down and see if that’s what’s causing the problem. The tech couldn’t even say that it would work. It’s just that he tried everything else he could do. It’s the only thing left that he could think of.

We’ve been wanting to get rid of that tree for various reasons, but now we have a new one.

Wasps!

We’ll just have to find some other way to provide shade.

The Re-Farmer

More large branch pruning

While we have been able to determine that the trees in the south yard are NOT the cause of our current internet problems, we did work on some additional pruning of the elm we’d worked on earlier.

This is one of a couple of large branches we took down, that were growing into the lilac bush I’m trying to save, as well as overhanging the haskap bushes and flower bed between the elm and the lilac.

This is my daughter trying to get at one of the dead branches. We added the extra length to the extended pole pruning away, making it about 12 feet long. She could still barely reach it!

Then the pole came apart at the join.

Not where it’s meant to come apart!

So that job got finished from a step ladder – which is not safe at all! – but at this point, there’s not much more we can do about this tree without calling in the pros, with the equipment needed to get high enough.

Here is how it looks now. A bit more open, and a few less branches to worry about.

At the bottom of the photo, just right of centre is a maple tree growing up and into the elm branches that I will likely have to take out, if I want to save the lilac. I’m loathe to do it, as it’s such a healthy tree!

Besides. There are a lot of dead trees and branches that need to be taken out, first, as well as continuing with cleaning out the spruce grove.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

I think that’s going to have to become my new motto. 😀

The Re-Farmer

Garden stuff update, and shortened term plans

With this being our first attempt to do any gardening since we’ve moved back to my family farm, we are learning quite a lot.

One of those things is, there are a lot more rocks in the old garden than I remember as a kid!

I had broken up some of the hillier parts that were making mowing more “damaging” than “difficult”, and the girls had a chance to go at some of those spots with hoes, to break them up and flatten them out. They were only able to do a few before the heat drove them inside.

Even so, they managed to also collect these.

When I was a kid, picking rocks out of the garden was a regular and constant thing we did. It kept things manageable. I don’t know how many years ago that particular chore stopped. I know my parents would not have been able to keep it up, and my siblings that were able to go to the farm more often certainly would not have had time to pick rocks, when there were far more urgent things for them to take care of, while they were there.

We are definitely seeing the difference. It’s one of several reasons why I want to go with raised garden beds. Being on the bed of a ancient glacial lake means there will always, always be rocks working their way up the soil with every frost and thaw. It’s also why we are working on using mulch and layers of material to build up the soil. In the old garden area, mulching where we have the squash beds now is the only reason the area is at all manageable.

The squash seem to like it! Here is another type that has started to bloom. Since the other ones turned out to be sunburst squash, that means this is one of the summer surprise variety pack of zucchini. Not a variety I’ve seen grown before; we grew different types of squash when I was a kid, but never one with these mottled leaves. It should be interesting to see what they are!

The cucamelons are now trellised. I did it in stages, adding the bamboo stakes that wouldn’t be needed in one of the squash beds into the openings on the sides of the chimney blocks, then coming back to add the horizontal lines. Finally, I added a vertical line at each of the cucamelons. I didn’t bother for two of the blocks, as it looks like the cucamelons in them are not going to make it. They’re not dead, but they’re not really growing, either.

Once the vertical lines were in place, I placed tendrils around them, to start training the cucamelons to grow upwards. On one side, I added a line up to an overhanging tree branch to keep the whole thing from sagging from the weight. If necessary, the same can be done on the other side.

This is not where we originally planned to grow the cucamelons. I don’t think they can get as much sun as they need in this location, but we couldn’t delay transplanting them anymore. If we grow these again in the future, we will have to be sure to have a sunnier location ready for them.

I am continuing to build up the old flower garden here, and have been adding layers of straw, leaves and grass clippings mostly at the lower end, closer to the retaining wall. Where the soil has been added is where we transplanted the few fennel that came up, and a couple of those have since died. So we have a whole 3 fennel still growing in there! 😀

For all the layers and additions of mulch, things are still working their way through. The rhubarb and some of the flowers, we are good with. Those horrible invasive vines keep coming up, and there’s a type of flower my mother suddenly decided she didn’t want me to get rid of (after I’d already gotten the okay from her and started the layering) that wants to take over the whole area.

What I had hoped for this garden is to use it as a kitchen garden, to grow things like herbs and the like, as well as some flowers. Maybe some lettuces. My mother keeps going on about how she’d planted onions here, and keeps asking me how her onions are doing, then complaining that I killed them all by mulching the area. :-/ The only place I ever saw onions coming up was along one edge, where I’d taken some fencing and car tire planters out, so I’m not sure what she’s taking about. One has actually come up again, this year, but there was never more than a couple, since we’ve lived here. From the state of the rest of the garden, there was no way she had more than those growing, even going back in my memory to what was there when I was a kid. She only ever had onions growing along that south side, but when she talks about it, she makes it sound like most of the garden was onions and garlic.

The ornamental apple trees had been planted to provide shade, I’ve been told. Then there’s the double lilac, the honeysuckle and the roses. One of the roses finally bloomed this year, but being under one of the apple trees the way it is, it’s really struggling. The Cherokee rose, on the other hand, is spreading like a weed.

Those apple trees are going to cause problems for anything we try to grow there.

I suppose they wouldn’t bother me as much, if they were at least an edible apple. How ironic that the pretty much only apple trees we’ve got that don’t show signs of fungal disease, are the ones that we can’t eat from!

The girls and I have been talking about what we’ll do next, when it comes to growing and planting. They really want to start planting flowers. We’re also talking about finding a way to get the nut orchard collection I’d found, earlier rather than later. Trees take so long to grow, that it would be worthwhile for us to start that as soon as possible. The package deal I’d found is for 100 trees, and we were planning to use the old garden area, including the spaces that have always been a mowed border, for that. The package is over a thousand dollars – and that’s with the bulk discount! With that in mind, they will be working to come up with funds to contribute, so we can get it earlier. Maybe even as early as next spring!

Some other things, however, will be ordered for planting this fall.

One of the things we’ve decided to do is use the bed currently filled with the beets and carrots for garlic, after everything in it now has been harvested. We’ll be ordering a collection of 1 pound each of 3 different types.

Aside from the garlic, we will be ordering lots and lots of flowering bulbs.

As much as I enjoy mowing, there are some areas in between the trees that I would rather not be mowing at all! In fact, if we can not mow in between any of the trees, that would be great. It’s really bad for the mower in there!

So I took a bunch of pictures of different areas, then we went through them to discuss what we would be planting and where. The plan is to fill some areas with naturalizing flowers, and other areas will be kept open as paths, with some sort of ground cover that can be walked on, instead of grass.

Next month, along with the garlic, we will order muscari (aka grape hyacinth), a collection of snow crocuses, a double tulip collection, and various other flowers. The muscari and snow crocuses will be mixed together and basically scattered in select areas where we want low growing plants. The taller flowers, the girls will decide on the exact places. Other areas we want to have low growing plants will have things like creeping phlox in them, or hostas in the shadier areas, and even ferns, eventually, but the areas we want to walk on will have things like different kinds of thyme, while others will have mosses. There are some areas we need to keep flower free, so that my husband, who is allergic to stings, can go into them and not worry about bees.

For our zone, once we order our selections next month, we should expect them to be delivered around the end of September.

I bought an auger attachment for my drill with plans to use it when we did the sunflowers. I decided against using it, because of how rocky the old garden area is. It’s actually sold as a tool for planting bulbs. The muscari alone will be 200 bulbs (we’re getting 2 packages), so that thing is going to get a workout this fall! 🙂

At least, that’s what our plans are. I’ve long since learned that no plans are written in stone, so we shall see what we actually get to do when the time comes! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Just a bit of a prune…

In my last post, I mentioned how we were having connectivity troubles with our satellite internet, due to heave foliage.

It’s very windy today.

Since we switched cables on accounts, we’ve had constant interruptions in service, to the point that my daughter was having difficulties working.

I’d gone outside to use up more of the rain barrel’s water around the yard when the girls came out to take a good hard look at the tree situation.

The satellites are aimed through a gap between two trees. A gap that is mostly filled with leaves right now.

The question was, should we prune?

It came down to a particular branch on one of the elms beside the small gate in the chain link fence.

Now, I’ll be straight about the pair of trees on either side of this gate. I would love for them to be gone. They were planted in a poor location, and their roots are currently pushing up the sidewalk blocks. My ideal plan would be to remove both trees, pull up their stumps, and lay down a new, wider, properly installed sidewalk that would better accommodate my husband’s walker. That is a HUGE job we are in no position to do for many years yet, if at all.

I’m pretty sure that when the current sidewalk was installed, the pavers were just laid down on the grass, and then some dirt was thrown up against the sides so the lawn mower could go over them. I think the paving stones forming a small patio under the kitchen window were install much the same way. Those ones are being lifted and shifted by the roots of the elm tree in front of the kitchen window; another problem tree.

I understand why my mother planted them. They provide excellent shade. The problem is, she didn’t think far enough ahead when she chose the locations. Now, the one by the kitchen is a problem for the roof, as well as the patio blocks and the basement wall. The ones by the small gate in the chain link fence were planted too close together, never mind the sidewalk running between them.

So these are trees that have many issues.

In the end, it was these many issues that had us agreeing to prune away one of the major branches growing towards the house.

That, and they’re elms. We could cut them down to stumps, and they’d grow back. The one in front of the old kitchen had already been cut back significantly, leaving behind a flat top the yard cats now use to hang out on. 😀

I didn’t have my phone with me, so I have no before pictures, but this is how it is now.

As you can see, this is not the first time this branch has been pruned!

This was also our first opportunity to use the pruning paint I found, which is black, so it’s not easy to see in the photo.

The girls had started off using the long handled pruning saw to cut it, but it started to jam. I ended up bringing over the step ladder and a buck saw. Once up there, I could see that where they’d started cutting had a huge knot, out of sight from below! So I started cutting a few inches away. We never did have to cut all the way through; the weight of the branch itself started breaking it, long before. One of my daughters grabbed it with the hook on the long handled pruning saw and was able to pull it the rest of the way down. After that, it was just a matter of cutting it free from the tree, which required one daughter to lift the weight of the main branch while the other did the cutting.

Once it was on the ground, I was able to go at it with the reciprocating saw and cut it into manageable sized pieces for hauling away.

Except for the main body. We set that aside for now.

We were thinking of the possibility of my using parts of it for carving, but I don’t think that will be possible.

It looks like the core of this branch was already rotting away! I think I even see insect damage.

Which means, if we hadn’t taken it down now, it may well have broken in high winds, like branches in the tree in front of the kitchen window already have. Well, that’s a likelihood for any of the trees. The rot just made this one a higher risk.

You can just see the black end of the branch we cut in this photo.

You can also see some of the many dead branches above it.

In this photo, you can see part of the elm tree on the other side of the gate, on the right side of the photo. Lots more dead branches, all out of reach.

Taking this branch down has opened up the yard quite a lot! I remember getting that same feeling of openness when I cut away the broken branches in the elm by the house (on the left edge of the photo, you can see part of a branch from that tree). We still have plenty of shade, too.

In the end, I’m glad we got it done. Whether or not it reduces how often our internet cuts out (which happened again while I was writing this, but only once, rather than the 3 or 4 times when I wrote my last post), we will see. For now, though, we got the one branch done, and will hopefully find a way to get at the dead ones, too. I’d really rather not wait for storms to bring them down, if I can!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: more progress

Today, I had a chance to work on cleaning up one of the areas around where we are planning to build a cordwood outhouse.

Here is how it looked, when we left off last.

Basically, I’d managed to clear around an old tree stump, and not much else, before being driven indoors by the heat.

This time, I brought out the reciprocating saw to take down some of the larger things, including cutting the stumps of what I’d cleared before, to ground level.

One of the issues we have with using the outside plug is, even the weight of the cord itself tends to pulled it out enough to kill the power.

Today, I tried a solution that worked out just fine.

This pole used to have a bird feeder on it. I took the feeder off to repair it, but with the lilac growing over it, I don’t see use putting it back in this location again. At some point, we’ll pull it out, but for now, it’s coming in handy! 😀

Here is how the area I worked on looks now.

The branches in front, on top of a stump, are for the chipping/burn pile. I cleared as far back as the next stump.

This turned out to be a very finicky job. I kept having to pull things out by hand, like crab grass and small saplings growing out the roots of things I’d cut away last year, then raking out debris, just to get at the larger things I needed to cut down.

I cleared only a little bit, towards a stump we uncovered while clearing this area last year.

In the process, I uncovered a bunch of flowers. I don’t know what they’re called, but I’m finding them kind of all over the place.

I also uncovered these.

There are quite a lot of these very delicate little wildflowers! I tried not to pull any up as I cleared debris from around them.

Further in is where more cherry trees are. None of which have bloomed, that I ever saw. You can see on the right of this photo, the cherry trees that were killed off last spring, when we had a sudden drop in temperatures after they started blooming. They got fresh growth from their bases. I think I have identified one or two in this area that look like they are strong and healthy enough to keep. The rest will be taken out.

Meanwhile, covering the left half of the photo, berries are starting to form on what I believe are chokecherries!

These are pieces of cherry wood that I will be keeping for future projects.

This is the pile of debris I cleared away from that small area!

We’ve started a pile behind the old outhouse, of what is turning out to be a tree debris compost pile. Stuff that we don’t want to add to the chipping/burning piles, but that don’t belong in the compost pile, either.

When we get to the point where we will be building accessible raised bed gardens, debris like this will be used on the bottoms of the beds to help fill them.

It’s remarkable how much stuff came out of such a small area!

When next I work on this area, I want to start on the other side of where we want to put the cordwood outhouse, clearing more towards the junk/wood pile. There’s at least one old tree stump in there, plus fallen trees that need to be cleared out.

Those might end up being part of the walls of the outhouse! 🙂

I’d like to be able to access the junk pile better, so we can go through it and see what wood in there can be salvaged, what needs to be added to the debris pile, and what needs to go into the junk pile that will be hauled to the dump.

There are two Saskatoons and an elm growing on that side. We’ll have to decide which, if any or all, of these will be kept.

There’s also a mound of… soil? beside it. I’d like to get rid of it, but it’s got a layer of grasses growing on it right now, so I can’t tell what it’s actually made up of. The other mystery pile out by the barn turned out to be a pile of insulation. I’m kind hoping this one is something like gravel, or even just dirt.

The goal at this point, though, it just to clear access to the junk pile, then get back to clearing the space the outhouse will be built on, and start clearing out the sod.

I’m happy to have gotten at least a little bit or progress in there today!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: very little progress, but gosh, that’s cute!

I headed out to see how much I could do for clean up, before the weather drove me indoors.

This is the area we decided we will put the outhouse we are planning to make as a cordwood practice building.

The double ended arrow is a dead spruce that will need to come down, before it falls down. There is another spruce we’ve identified as a risk, near it. It’s still alive, but already starting to fall, with roots on one side torn loose from the ground. Likely from high winds. Getting rid of those before we build is on the to-do list. The last thing we need is to build what is intended to be basically an emergency outdoor bathroom (because we discovered a need for this!), only to have a tree fall on it.

The other arrows point to tree stumps hidden among the underbrush. The ones I’ve spotted so far, at least. I’m sure that, as we clear things away, we will find more. Hopefully, the roots of these trees will not be an issue when we start clearing away sod to a depth of 6 – 8 inches.

This is all the progress I managed to do.

Basically, I cleared a bit of an old tree stump. Some of the stuff I cleared last year was starting to grow back, so that had to be gotten rid of. Then there were some cherry trees that are spreading. The cherry trees in this area have still not started to bloom yet, unlike the one near the house, which has already completed it’s flowering stage. I did keep some larger pieces of cherry.

I checked the weather about an hour after coming inside, and it was 26C/79F, with a “real feel” of 32C/90F, and a humidity of 62% – and it would have started to cool down by the time I checked!

They’re predicting thunderstorms again. Go figure.

While trying to clear around the old stump, some grasses pulled away much easier than I expected.

It turns out that there is an ants nest in it. We have two common types of ants here (though I don’t know what their proper names are). Black ants, which build their nests in the dirt and in open areas, like lawns, and red ants, which like to build their nests of spruce needles and in trees. These ones are NOT carpenter ants. That much, I do know. But they will take advantage of a dead tree stump, if it’s rotting enough.

The other thing I was able to do was clear away the piles of old boards we’d used to mark out the garden beds and hold down the protective plastic. I didn’t want to just stack them on the ground, where they will just rot, but where to put them that will keep them off the ground?

Well… there are these two old dog houses by the old outhouses, that we will cover in the fall again, so little critters can use them for shelter.

May as well use those!

We are going to need to clean up the rest of the wood in the junk pile, so I figure we can add more of the better boards onto here, to create a sort of roof. Who knows if they’ll stay here, but it’s one way to keep them off the ground, and that’s all I’m really after, right now.

Once I got inside with my chunks of cherry wood, I went into the cool of the basement to debark them, and keep the babies company.

I misjudged my ability to work with them around.

This would be Big Rig, under Leyendecker, both of whom got all sleepy on me. As I was trying to maneuver my phone to take this picture, Big Rig’s head just flopped over like this as she feel asleep!

Then Beep Beep climbed up, waking them both up, so she could curl up on my chest and demand attention. !!

For I while, I had Saffron perched on my shoulder, just watching the world go by, Big Rig, Leyendecker and Beep Beep, curled up on my arm and chest, snuggling and falling asleep, while Turmeric climbed my leg and tackled the tip of Big Rig’s tale. Only Nicco left me alone, preferring to explore the table behind me, then curl up for a nap on the platform bed frame they like to sleep under.

Thankfully, since I was able to reach my phone, I was able to let the girls know about my predicament, and they came down to assist me after they finished making supper. I did manage to detach most of the cats off of me – temporarily. Saffron was just sitting on my shoulder, so I left her be, but even as I worked on a piece of cherry with a large knife, I soon had kittens back on my lap to watch!

Thanks to the girls distracting the kittens, I did manage to debark two pieces completely – and even get the bark off in one piece!

The thicker, shorter section was only partly done; more than half of it seems to have been in the process of dying or something. You even see where the colour changes in the photo, from fresh to dry wood. The bark just would not come off, and with my wrist still giving me grief, using the knife to take off the bark was not a good thing!

My daughter looked it up, and it turns out cherry is poisonous to cats (except the pulp of ripe berries), so all the little bits and pieces went into my sawdust bin, which has a seal-able lid. The pieces of wood are now drying in the rafters, and the bark I was able to remove all in one piece are now laid out on a shelf in the sun room, drying next to my seed trays (where a single squash of some sort has germinated!).

I do hope it we finally get a solid rainfall, instead of having the systems swoop right past us again! It’s not like we’re dry right now, but it would be wonderful for that humidity to finally be reduced! I would love to be able to work outside for longer! There is just too much to get done out there.

The Re-Farmer