Yesterday’s progress: trellises down, and pruning willow

Things turned out to be rather pleasant yesterday afternoon, so I took advantage of it to get some stuff off my to-do list.

First, the trellises.

The netting and bamboo stakes are all put away. I even unwound the blue twine from the pea trellis. We won’t be planting vegetables here again. We’ll be planting food trees and bushes in the area, instead (except for the area over the phone line, wide enough to drive a vehicle through, that we’ll be keeping clear). So, the trellises are coming down!

The five uprights from the pea trellis all broke at ground level. I was able to pull the others straight out of the ground, with only a little big of wiggling. You can tell by the dirty on the ends, which pile has those!

Since I had the materials, I used some of the pieces to make a buck and pole “fence” over the sea buckthorn. Only two have survived, so I only wanted it long enough to go over those. Hopefully, that will dissuade deer from nibbling on them. The gap in the hedge is right near here. One end is far enough out that it should make a deer not want to jump the fence there at all. On the trail cams, I’ve been seeing quite a few deer walking around this corner of the property, so it seems they are already not jumping the fence here much. There is another spot they prefer to jump the fence at.

Later on, I decided it was worth working on the willow. I’m after branches to weave into the wattle wall I’m building in the old kitchen garden, so this is getting two things done at once.

The trunks were barely visible from all the branches that had grown along them. Thankfully, we have an extended pole pruner that I can use for the higher branches, instead of trying to get at them with loppers from a ladder. You can see the vine has climbed it quite a bit, too!

The power line to the house is still not clear of branches. This job will be continued later, and includes the trees on the other side of the chain link fence.

The longest and straightest branches were kept, stripped of side branches and leaves, and a daughter started debarking the biggest ones for me while I pruned more, until it started raining. Then I grabbed a knife and helped debark. Wattle fencing isn’t normally debarked, but I want to debark the branches that are going to have contact with soil – because the last thing I want is for willow to start growing right next to the house! I love willow, but that is not a tree you want close to infrastructure!

There were some really straight, thin branches I kept, too, putting them on the pile of maple and cherry wood that’s already there. Who knows. We might find some use for them.

This is all the branches we got out of there, so far. Not even close to how many will be needed to weave a wall. Only the bottom few inches needs to be tightly woven, as it will be holding soil in, but eventually that will be on all sides, not just the “back” that is the focus to get finished first. The high parts of the back wall are to keep things out, rather than in. It’s going to be a challenge to find enough suitable branches for this!

Today is supposed to be a semi-warm day – with both rain and snow expected – then we’ll have several days with highs just barely above freezing, before it warms up again and stays warm for about a week. Hopefully. At least the rain will keep those willow branches from drying out. I’m hoping to at least get these ones woven in, some time today!

The Re-Farmer

Got it done!

This morning, after finishing my morning rounds, I headed over to a town north of us to pick up our freezer pack of beef that we ordered from a local rancher. I had a chance to chat with her about the flooding this spring. The town had some massive road damage, and it’s still being repaired. Their farm, however, is slightly elevated from the town, so they had no flooding. The way she put it, if they ever got flooding where they are, the town would be under water.

The moisture and rains have been both a blessing and a challenge. Because of the weather, their cattle got put out to pasture later than usual, but for the first time in many years, the grass was already high. Last year at this time, there was almost no pasture at all, and everything was crispy. They grow their own feed as well, and her husband finally got out to finish seeding just today. It’s late, but if we get another long fall, that should be fine.

We also talked about our arrangements to get a quarter beef in the fall again. Ordering so early helps them plan things out. As for the monthly payments, my thing is, if I’m going to have to set the money aside anyhow, I would rather the money go to them, to help feed the cow we’re going to be eating! πŸ˜€ It’s a win-win, for sure. πŸ™‚

Since we met in the grocery store parking lot, I quickly popped in to pick up a few things. We are confirmed for company in a couple of days, and I’m still hoping for a cook out. Then I took the opportunity to go to the hardware store. I’m happy to say, I was able to find the trellis net I was looking for!

I got three, just in case, and I’m glad I did.

The nets are 12 ft long, but these rows are about 20 feet long, at the centre poles. The actual planting area and the A frame uprights are a bit less than that, but not much. With the second trellis I wored on, on the right, I’d had one trellis to lay out on one side. It’s long enough to reach across 4 upright poles, with twin to lash them taught. With the first one I worked on, on the left, I hadn’t had enough poles to do the cross pieces on the bottoms at first, so I put two on each side, alternating which pair of poles they were attached to. When I put up the 2 nets we had left over from last year, so that they were attached to the bottom poles, that meant the empty gaps were at opposite ends.

For the trellis on the right, I was able to put up a new net across from the one I’d put up before, leaving the space between the last poles open. That allowed me to take a second net and wrap it around the end, where the big rock is.

With the other one, I had to got the last net in half to cover the gaps at opposite ends. I’d much rather have not had to do that, but the alternative would have been to undo and move one of the trellis nets that were already up.

They are VERY thoroughly lashed in place.

I wasn’t going to do that. πŸ˜€

The trellises are now ready for the pole beans, peas and gourds to start climbing!

One of the things I did while in town was pick up a package of green bush beans. The ones we planted with the sweet corn are not coming up at all, so I decided we can replant them. With bush beans, we can get away with planting this late. That’s something I’ll be doing later today.

My other project outside was to see if I could get my daughter’s old market tent frame useable again. A couple of summers ago, we had it set up near the fire pit in preparation for a cookout when we suddenly got high winds. A couple of pieces that were joined in the middles at a pivot point, snapped. It’s a really good tent, so even though it was broken, we kept all the pieces.

We used the frame to support the surface used to harden off our seedlings. I’d made an insert to join the snapped ends and keep them from bending too far, then duct taped the ends together. Today, I took a couple of very short metal pieces from the canopy tent I dismantled once things thawed out enough to remove the tree that fell on it, and taped them to the broken bars to support them even more. Then I dug out the tent roof and set it up near the fire pit. Once the roof was on, the tent fully set up and I confirmed the patch was holding, I folded it all closed again. It was too windy to leave out. However, it is now ready for us to use near the fire pit. I want to set the picnic table up inside it, and have at least two of the walls hung, so we can set up some citronella candles to help keep the mosquitoes at bay!

The big problem with that plan is, the picnic table is on it’s last legs. Every time I’ve moved it, some other part either bends, or pops off it’s screws. Which is to be expected. We cleaned it up and painted it, but it was still very rotten, and we knew it wasn’t going to last much longer. We can still use it, as long as we’re gentle with it.

Which means no more moving it around with just one person!

The Re-Farmer

Wet, wet and more wet!

I am so, so glad the girls were able to get the clogged downspouts cleared yesterday! We had a thunderstorm last night, and are currently under weather alerts for more severe thunderstorms.

This is the one, draining into the north yard, that was causing the most problems. It is under this corner that the most water is leaching into the basement. This basement does have weeping tile, but they are not working as they should anymore, and are probably clogged at this end.

There is another downspout at the south end, but it had only the short piece of eavestrough at the end to divert the water away from the house. For some reason, we’ve got about a dozen or more downspouts in the garage, so I grabbed one for them, and they set it up to extend into the bed where the dwarf Korean lilac is. With how tall the grass is in the outer yard, it was actually a struggle to get through it, to reach the barn!!

I’ll put up with the extension blocking the path along the house. It’s not as bad as the north corner, but we do have water seeping into the basement a bit in the south corner, too. The wall is partly damaged by the roots from the Chinese elm my mother planted for shade in front of the kitchen window. 😦

While they worked on that, I worked on the trellises.

I decided I’m just going to have to buy more of those bamboo stakes once pay comes in. A pair of them was set up at each of the uprights for the two rows that need trellising. That left me with 4 stakes left. I lashed them to the bottoms of alternate A frames, for 2 on each side. To finish the job on both rows, I’ll need 10 more of these 6′ bamboo poles. Then I used the net from last year and set that up, lacing twine along the ends and at the bottom stakes, to snug it up. We need to get more of this type of net. The spacing is large enough that we can reach through to harvest our beans, peas or cucumbers. The other net we have is 1/4 inch mesh.

After this, I also put a simple rope fence around where we have squash, beans and corn planted. At this point, I just want to stop the deer from walking through it. They’re not after anything there – yet. You’ll see that set up in a photo below.

During the night, the skies opened and the rains poured down! I actually slept through it, awakened only by one exceptionally loud peal of thunder. While doing my rounds this morning, however, I could not believe how much water there is, everywhere! It must have been quite the deluge! I’m still holding out hope to be able to mow the west and north lawns, but that’s not going to happen today, that’s for sure! The west lawn is now mostly under water. Most of the north lawn as well. I’ve never seen that much open water in those areas before.

The squash patch is very wet – thankfully, the straw mulch is helping keep that under control. We’ve had paths between the low raised beds filled with puddles before, but not this much around where the grow bags and the small potato bed are.

I’m actually surprised the mosquito netting has held out. Their purpose is to keep the plants from being pounded by rain or hail, while still letting the water through, and it seems to be working. They’re only held in place with wooden clothes pegs!

I’m standing in water to take the above picture. There is even a large puddle next to the remains of the straw bale. The melons are likely good with the wet – they do need a lot of water, normally – but I’m concerned that some of the potatoes might get drowned.

This is the patch I “fenced” off last night. I used some old conduit pipes I found in the barn and pounded them in place as fence posts. They’ve got 2 lengths of twine running around them, far enough apart that we can just bend down and step through to get to the plants. I also dangled lengths of bells in different places, so even if a deer decided to step through, it would hopefully make a noise and distract it away. I added one of the pinwheels we have to the top of a pipe for the distraction. Little by little, we’ll set up more distractions and noise makers around the garden beds. Eventually, we will probably have to put a hardware cloth fence up, to at least protect the corn.

Assuming the corn and beans survive. As you can see, the sprouting corn is under water in places. The north end of the row with the popcorn in it is all under water. Still no beans coming up next to the sweet corn. Will they survive? I have no idea.

Even the area where the trellises are is full of water. This corner of the yard has been notorious for being incredibly dry and baked hard by the sun. Thankfully, the rows themselves are slightly elevated with the addition of garden soil and mulch, and even our digging and weeding before planting means where the plants are growing, the soil has better drainage.

The nearby sea buckthorn is high enough to not be in puddles – and they are finally unfurling their leaves! Nice to see they all took.

The silver buffalo berry is also doing surprisingly well. Moving south, the land slowly slopes downwards, so the last 10 or so silver buffalo berry are in pools of water. At least three of those have been in water for quite a while, and are still okay. They seem to be quite resilient!

The beds in the east yard are almost surrounded by water. Remarkably, the ground cherries are doing all right. I think that grass mulch is acting as a sponge, keeping them from being drowned out completely. There are pools of water right next to the mulch.

The paths between the low raised beds, and the entire lawn in front of them, is full of water. There is basically a pond in front of the outhouse. Thankfully, the raised beds are making a difference. There is increased growth visible in the Kulli corn, and the beans between them are looking very healthy. The tomatoes and onions are also looking strong – and those onions are really taking off! The 6 transplanted garlic at the far end of the third bed may not all make it, but the rest of the garlic is finally looking like they are taking off. I figure they are at least a month behind the garlic in the main garden area.

The other beds in the south yard are all high enough to be out of water. It looks like all 10 of the sunchoke tubers planted are now sprouted; some of the tubers have multiple stalks coming up. The asparagus and strawberry bed are right next to the vehicle gate, which is full of water, but the bed is doing well. Likewise, the beds along the chain link fence, on either side of the people gate, are above water and doing well. Still no signs of white strawberries.

The old kitchen garden has a slightly different situation. We’ve deliberately built it up over the past 4 years and have the retaining wall at one end, so it’s above the water that is in the lawn surrounding it. The house itself also usually keeps parts of it from getting rained on as much, not to mention the ornamental apple trees. However, the sump pump hose drains into the sun room garden, and that pump is going off quite frequently. It drains next to the bed where we’ve got the beets planted. I shift the end every now and then, so it’s either draining straight down a mulched path between the bed and the laundry platform, or it’s draining into the mulch at the end of the bed, and partly down the path on the other side.

These are all areas that are normally drier than everywhere else. Until this year, the sump pump basically never went off, because we’d been so dry. Now, not only are we getting more rain, but there’s all that nice, clear water from the sump pump reservoir being added. There is currently so much lush growth along the house side of the old kitchen garden that the path we made using salvaged cap stones, bricks and rocks along the house is almost hidden. The high end of the beet bed is almost overgrown with mint – and I dug up and transplanted as much of the mint from there as I could, last fall. Then again in the spring, I pulled up more of it when getting the bed ready for planting! The path is also full of mint at that end, along with loads of crab grass. Moving north along the house, it’s more of those invasive wildflowers, some of which my mother planted deliberately, not knowing they were invasive, and some are the same ones we’ve got taking over all over the place. I don’t mind them in the paths too much, but they’re coming up in the L shaped bed, too, and choking out the lettuce.

We have a drainage hose for the sump pump, but it’s currently being used for the washing machine to drain outside (it sounds like whatever is causing the water to back up in the pipes is still a problem). I’d like to add an extension so that the sump pump drains further away. With the length these hoses come in, we could even move the end to different areas of the old kitchen garden that might need more water, if we wanted. The area it’s draining into right now is getting to be too much of a jungle! πŸ˜€

We had already determined that we’ll be building high raised beds for mobility reasons. For some crops, like corn, tomatoes and vining plants, we would still want to have low raised beds. High raised beds are notorious for drying out quickly and needing more water, which is why we are using modified hΓΌgelkultur methods to fill them, with all those layers of wood and organic matter acting as a sponge to hold water. This spring has shown us that even for a wet year, there are benefits to having raised beds, as they are keeping things from being drowned, too. Even a few inches of elevation or a mulch is making a difference.

When we get around to building permanent high raised beds in the outer yard, from what I’ve been seeing so far, water like this will be less of a problem. There are patches with water collecting in them, but where we are planning to build the beds seems clear. We’ll see better once we finally get that overgrown grass cut. It’s about 3 ft high, at least! I almost feel like asking one of our neighbours if they have a grazing animal we could borrow. Otherwise, it feels like such a waste to cut it all!

We’ll figure it out.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: building the first pea trellis

We had a beautiful warm day today – prefect for working outside!

Our peas are among the things that require the most preparation before we can direct sow them, so we decided to focus on building trellises for them. After looking over some design ideas, drawing some sketches and making some decisions, I headed out with my baby chain saw and rifled through the pile of poplar poles we kept after doing some clean up and testing out the cordless pruner.

That baby chainsaw made cutting poles to size very fast!

In the background are the support poles, cut to 6 ft lengths. The poles on the wagon are the cross pieces. I am short a few to be able to complete all the beds, but I ran out of medium sized poles. We are saving the bigger ones for the squash trellises, as they will have the most weight on them. The smaller ones will be good as stakes, but are too thin to be cross pieces.

I’ll just have to do more clean up and gather more poles! πŸ™‚

Our purple peas have the fewest seeds, so it got the simpler trellis design.

I started by laying out the support poles near where they will be set. Each bed will have 5 support poles, with the biggest ones on the ends, and the middles.

That rain barrel in the background is the one I patched up last year, to keep water at ambient temperature near our squash beds. We will need to fill it with water soon, so it doesn’t blow away! It’s going to take all our hoses put together, to reach that far.

After finding the centre of the first bed, I started digging a post hole – and immediately started hitting roots and rocks!!

I did drag over one of the post hole diggers we found, to try it out.

I’m pretty sure it has pieces missing. πŸ˜€

It can handle smaller pebbles, but roots and larger rocks were a problem. For some of the rocks, I had to get in there and bring them out by hand, because not even the spade could get them out. We only have one spade, and I don’t want to break it! We did have a second spade. The handle broke while I was digging holes for the haskaps. :-/

First pole is in!

The pile of rocks was later added to the top of the soil around the post. The soil that was put back into the hole and tamped down was a lot softer, and sank down quite a bit.

Shortly after that, my younger daughter was able to join me, and the rest of the poles went in much faster. πŸ™‚

Attaching the cross pieces was a bit of an issue. What I really would have liked to do was screw them together. There’s no way to do that manually, since we’d end up pushing the poles around in their holes. We don’t have enough extension cords to reach this area to use a corded drill and drill pilot holes. Our cordless drill is old and the batteries no longer hold a charge – and it’s old enough that the brand no longer uses the same batteries and does not make them anymore. Once we work out a solution, we’ll go back and put in screws.

Before adding the cross pieces, we measured and marked heights at the top and bottom of each support pole, then cut flattened spots on the ends of the cross pieces and at the marked areas of the support poles. When cleaning up the basements, we found a ball of old bale twine, so we used that to tie the crosspieces in place. That twine is really old, so while it’s holding surprisingly well right now, I expect it to disintegrate fairly quickly.

Once that was done, I used the twine to weave on strings for the peas to climb.

Which took quite a long time! The ball of twine was lots of shorter pieces. I kept stopping to tie ends together and make centre pull balls, to make wrapping around the cross pieces easier. I ended up using most of the ball, so we’ll have to find something else to use for the other trellises.

This bed is now ready to layer straw and soil down. We might even be able to find something usable in the old compost pile to add to the layers. We don’t have a lot of material that can be used to build over that grass, but anything is better than what’s already here! And we can deal with weeds.

It seems a bit much, to do all this burying of posts for a temporary garden, but wind is something we have to take into consideration. Hopefully, we were able to get the support poles deep enough that they won’t be blown over.

The other two beds will have double rows of peas planted in them, so the trellises we build there will not have the cross pieces at the bottom. Instead, we will put cross pieces about a foot away from the centre poles, at about the same height as these ones. Once these trellises are strung, they will form a sort of A frame, with each row having it’s own side of strings to climb.

When I was a kid, my mother always grew peas, but never used trellises. One of my jobs as a child was to flip the rows of peas, so that the sun could reach the other side of the plants. I do remember a lot of yellowed or rotted leaves when flipping my mother’s un-trellised peas. This would have been due to lack of sunlight in the bunched up plants, and contact with the soil. There was likely fungal issues, too, but as a child, I wouldn’t have recognized it for what it was. It worked, and we always had lots of peas, but this will be healthier for the plants, and should result in better yields.

While I was working out here, I was able to hear people out and about, walking on the road, etc. The old house across the road from us has no one living there, but the current owners come out regularly. It was so wonderful to hear the voices of children, playing outside! At one point, I was even visited by a very friendly little dog. The only down side was having our vandal come driving by on his ATV, very studiously avoiding looking our way and pretending to be doing something else other than creeping on me. As if his driving over, turning around and going home again wasn’t making it really, really obvious. :-/

We definitely need privacy screens! The corn and sunflowers will help, once they’re tall enough, but when we clear the fence line so we can repair the fence, we’ll be removing what little screening we have in that area right now.

For now, I’m rather pleased with our “rustic” pea trellis. Not too bad for something made of completely salvaged materials!

The Re-Farmer