Our 2022 garden: hardening off and first sowing

You know that surreal feeling, when you feel like it’s one time of the day, but then you look at a clock and realize it’s a completely different time of day?

I just finished my “morning rounds”, so it should be morning, right?

Never mind that I spent several hours working on things that aren’t part of my usual morning routine. 😀

While heading around to put bird feed out, I spotted our new “tenant” under the stairs.

It backed into the space under the stairs, but still hung around to watch me!

Knowing that the main road was fixed, as soon as I finished my usual morning routine, I headed to town, passing a grader on the way. Very happy to see it. There’s only so much a grader an do with the current road conditions, but at least it helps. The area that was washed out was beautifully fixed up. Not even the grader could fix that torn up part closer to our intersection, though.

I picked up just a few of the fresh things we were running low on at the grocery store, then hit the post office on the way home to pick up the mail and a new bag of bird seed. Once everything was put away, I decided to take advantage of the weather, while I could. We’re supposed to get rain later, but for now it’s overcast and decently warm. What we needed to do was start hardening off our transplants.

The girls and I had spent some time trying to figure out what to use to hold the transplants when hardening them off, that will keep the outside cats and other critters away, while also being big enough to hold all the bins and trays. What we used last year is just too small for all the plants we have this year. Then we remembered that we still have the home made, twin sized bed frame that was here when we moved in, sitting in the basement. So I got that out this morning. We also found a pair of folding table legs when we cleaned out the basement, so I figured we could add those to the underside of the frame. It has 8 short legs on the support frame and is topped with plywood. The frame supporting the plywood was too narrow for the plates on the table legs, so I was going to attach it directly to the underside of the plywood, until I realized the shortest screws I have are 3/4″, and it’s 1/2″ plywood.

Ah, well. It would have been a good idea.

That meant using the frame from my daughters canopy tent that she got for when she used to do the art markets. Part of the frame broke in high winds, but we’re still finding ways to use it. Two long pieces of the frame that had been attached to each other with a pivot had snapped. The metal pieces are hollow, so I found a way to rejoin them using a long nail wrapped with enough duct tape to make a snug fit, tucked inside the pieces, then taping them together on the outside. They still wiggle and it certainly won’t hold much, but at least we no longer have pieces flopping around when we move the frame.

The bed platform went on top of the tent frame, with the frame opened wide enough to fit against the inside of the bed’s support pieces snuggly. The ground isn’t level, though, but nothing a couple of bricks under 2 legs couldn’t solve. Then, because the wood is unfinished, I opened the 3 pack of sturdy tarps I picked up at Costco a few months back, and covered the whole set up. Using the cords salvaged from the canopy tent I’d recently disassembled, I was able to peg the corners to the ground, then use the excess cord to lace up the ends. The long sides were still flapping in the wind a bit, so those were tied together, under the platform.

Once everything was secure, it was time to bring the plants out!

It turned out to be the exact size needed for all the bins and trays!

Not quite all the plants fit, though.

The Wonderberry and a couple of trays of onions fit onto the shelf outside the sunroom.

Look at all those Wonderberry flowers!

Since this is the first day the transplants were being hardened off, I set a time for an hour, then started working in the old kitchen garden. We had beds that were ready for planting, but I decided to use the stirrup hoe to run through the bed framed with logs and get rid of any weeds.

I’m glad I did. After a while, I gave up on the hoe and brought out the new garden fork. There were a LOT more roots than I thought.

There were SO many big, healthy worms in the soil!

When we planted here last year, we had a couple of mystery plants show up in the middle of the bed, where we’d planted kohlrabi. Once we were sure they weren’t kohlrabi, we had no idea what they were – but I found their root clusters! That’s the pile you can see at the middle, left. I hope I got all the roots out. Those things got quite large, and I wouldn’t want them choking out whatever we plant here this year.

Broken pieces from the disassembled canopy tent frame are now set up to support any row cover we use. The holes are all facing the same way, so they can be threaded with cord to keep the netting from sagging in between.

We’re still not 100% decided on what to plant here, but we do know what’s going next to it.

The poppies we planted last year really struggled in the drought and heat waves, but we were still able to harvest some dried pods for their seeds. I’d just put them into a Solo cup and left them in the sun room all winter. This morning, I broke open the pods, and these are all the seeds that were in them. Not a lot, but enough to sow. Watching the seeds as they came out of the different pods, I’ve no doubt that some of the seeds were immature and are probably not going to germinate, but there are some that look good. It should be interesting to see how they do!

This is where we’d sowed the poppies last year. Seeds had fallen and scattered there last year, but I couldn’t tell if anything was germinating. Just in case, I didn’t try to dig up the crab grass or do any weeding. I loosened the surface soil up with a rake, scattered all the seeds evenly, then used the rake again to cover them. I didn’t bother watering them, since we’re expecting rain. We did buy a different variety of bread poppy seeds for this year, which will be planted well away from this area, to avoid cross pollination.

Our very first direct sown seeds of the year! Not what I’d intended, but I’ll take it!

The timing was perfect for finishing this and putting things away, as that’s when my timer went off. All the transplants went back inside. Taking them out gave me a chance to re-arrange things, too. The seed trays that are just starting to germinate are now closest to the west window. The bins with the shortest plants all went into the plant shelf in the south window, and the mini-greenhouse frame by the other west window. As bins were being returned to the platform with the seed trays, they were arranged with the shortest plants by the seed trays, working up to the tallest at the opposite end. This way, the bin that has supports for the Canteen gourds to climb is now no longer behind the shop light!

There was one down side to all this outdoor work, though.

As I was putting the bins and trays back into the sun room, I saw Junk Pile cat going through the old kitchen garden, carrying a kitten. She was taking them away from the cats’ house, heading somewhere to the north side of the house.

When I went out for the next trays, I saw… Junk Pile cat… coming from the south. Which meant the cat I thought was Junk Pile was actually the other mamma using the cats’ house. Not long after, I saw Junk Pile carrying a kitten and taking it to the big branch pile in the outer yard. I was afraid of this. With all the traffic and commotion so close to the cats’ house, the kittens got moved to someplace quieter. *sigh* That’s going to make it much harder to socialize them! It’s too bad the mamas are separate now. They were always snuggled together with their babies in there. Ah, well. It is what it is.

Now that we’ve got the set up done, the transplants will go outside every day – weather willing – for about an hour longer, each time. By the time we pass our last frost date on June 2, they will be good and ready to be outside permanently.

Until then, we can keep working on getting the cool climate seeds direct sown.

It feels so good to finally be getting seeds in the ground!

The Re-Farmer

What the heck?

Now, this was a strange thing to see outside or living room window!

Broccoli and Caramel weren’t just chillin’ with the grog. They were eating, too. I think they may actually have been eating the sunflower seeds! The only other things there are grass and leaves, and I know they weren’t eating those.

So very strange!

The Re-Farmer

Caught in the act!

Oh, the adorable little beast.

I moved the garden cam again, this time onto the summer squash. I’d had to tie some of their stems back onto their supports, and wasn’t sure if they’d come loose under their own weight, or if something caused them to fall.

Our sunburst squash is looking prolific, but we’ve had very little to pick. Lots of them have been withering on the vine, but there have also been bite marks on them.

It is confirmed who is the cause of this!

I had the camera low on its pole, and at some point during the night it slid down and spun a bit to the left. Which is why it caught a raccoon going by. There was a possibility that the raccoons were doing damage, but it completely ignored the squash, other than to go around them.

I was about 99.9% sure it was the woodchuck doing the damage. Now it is 100% confirmed.

*sigh*

The Re-Farmer

We have rain!!! Lots of rain!

As I write this, we’ve had several rainfalls, and even a couple of downpours. We’ve had more rain today than we have had all year until now! It is so exciting!

We actually got our first bit of rain this morning, while I was quickly doing my rounds. In fact, it was a bit of a problem at the time. While changing the micro disc cards on the driveway cam, the card I took out of the camera slipped through my fingers and fell to the ground.

I never found it.

I had a fresh card to put in and came back several times today, and nothing. I have extras, but I’d really hate to have lost it completely!

When checking the garden beds, I found a couple more sunflowers got nibbled on.

Almost every one of the transplanted Mongolian Giant sunflowers in this row have had their head bitten off. 😦

The culprit was caught on the garden cam!

Anyhow.

This morning, I made a trip to the smaller city to do the Walmart part of our monthly shopping, then swung by town on the way home to pick up my husband’s prescription refills. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized mine weren’t in there. I’ll have to remember to call them and get mine delivered. I only have one prescription, compared to my husband’s bubble packs and injections.

I wanted to make sure I got all the errands done early, because we were going to have visitors this evening. My brother and his wife were going to swing by, on their way to somewhere else. I’ve been sharing photos of the garden progress with them, and they wanted to see it in person.

It was while they were on the way over that the first thunderstorm hit. It stopped and started a couple of times, then stopped before they arrived. Meanwhile, during their drive, they saw no rain at all! It wasn’t until they got close that they finally saw wet highway. When they got here, we did the tour, including my showing them where the groundhogs have been hiding out.

I saw one crossing by the spruce grove just before they arrived, heading under the junk pile. When I took a look, there it was, watching me!!!

The cheeky little bugger.

While checking out around the junk pile, I was disappointed to see this.

These are Saskatoon bushes. We have a couple of them here, and they are in terrible shape. Not only do they show signs of fungal disease, but their leaves are riddled with insect damage, and little growths where insect eggs are. There is even a sudden grown of lichen on the trunks and branches! Lichen is supposed to be slow growing, yet these bushes, and even the dead branches on nearby spruce trees, have suddenly turned bright green and thick. Or perhaps it’s just the rain waking up what was already there? That sounds more likely.

There are a few places where we will have to clear out the diseased trees and bushes, then not plant anything nearby for a few years.

We were just finishing off our tour of the garden beds with my brother and his wife when it started to rain heavily again. We still have the gazebo tent set up, where we had painted the kibble house. The kibble house it back where it goes, so we had plenty of room to be sheltered from the rain, while still enjoying the lovely cool wind and freshness. They were really hoping some of the rain would make it their way; they’ve been pretty much as dry as we have, and while they have had a bit more rain than we have this year, it’s been more like a tease than anything else.

When the rain let up a little big, we made a dash to the pump shack. I had asked my brother if he remembered when the pump got changed, and he wanted to see what I was talking about.

He had no idea.

He remembers better than I do, what the set up was like before, when there was a motor to operate the pump with electricity. When I pointed out that the current pump was not attached to anything, but just sitting on the pipes, loose enough to move while I was pumping, he mentioned something interesting. It seems the pipes into the well are “floating”, and the pump itself will actually move up and down with the water table. !! He also described the piston system at the bottom of the well. The fact that I could get water but couldn’t keep it going suggest to him that the O rings are giving out.

We are still left with the mystery of what happened to the motor and the frame that supported it.

Later this evening, my mother phoned and I remember to ask her about it. Not only does she not remember, but as far as she knew, there was never electricity to that pump. She insisted it was only ever manual. This tells me that it was my dad that had it set up, after they moved out here. As far as I remember, there was always the electric system, which suggests that it was installed in the 5 or so years before I was born, but my mother no longer remembers this at all. I find that a rather strange thing to forget!

Which leaves us with the mystery of what happened to the old pump system. I suppose it’s possible my late brother had it removed, perhaps with plans to get the old well repaired? I can’t think of any other reason someone would have removed it. If he had, however, the parts and pieces would still be around, and they aren’t. So what happened to it?

It seems that there is no longer anyone alive that could tell us.

By the time we were done looking at the pump, it was starting to pour again, and my brother and his wife still had other places to do, so they had to quickly head out. I’m really happy they were able to stop by, and we could show them how things have been going. Including with the woodchucks. My brother brought up a possible solution, and it’s one I’d already taken steps towards. Hopefully, it’ll work and I’ll be able to post about being free of woodchucks! We shall see. Until the problem is solved, however, I’m not even going to try to plant the fall spinach and lettuces I was planning on. I’m not going to go through the effort, only to have it eaten!

I think I may have come up with a way to keep the grasshoppers off, too. They are decimating our poor radish and kale seedlings as thoroughly as the groundhogs have been wiping out our carrot beds!

At least our garden beds have finally had a thorough soaking. No amount of watering with the house can match a good, solid rainfall!

Here’s hoping the rain helped with the wildfires to the north of us, too!

The Re-Farmer

Well, that sucks

When we first saw the mystery critters that turned out to be woodchucks, running around in the distance, we saw them going under my late father’s car, or under a shed near the barn. When we first saw them this year, there was a pair of them that seemed to have made their home in the branches pile in the outer yard.

It wasn’t until we discovered a den in the middle of the old garden area that we had something that needed to be gotten rid of. Then there was the den under the concrete steps, right at the house. We’ve got four of them that seemed to have moved right into our yard. One really big one, a pair a smaller ones, and one really small one that we’ve seen coming in and out of the spruce grove.

We know at least one of them, possibly two, seems to have made its home under the old garden shed. There isn’t much we can do about them living there, but I didn’t like having to seal off the concrete stairs. That has been a safe place for yard cats to have their kittens, and now they no longer have access to it. The cats also used the space under the garden shed, too.

With seeing the little one running in and out of the spruce grove near the junk pile, I noticed that Butterscotch and her kittens have not been there as often. They still come to the food and water bowls, and they play around the house and under the bird bath, but we’ve seen Butterscotch and her kittens going through the lilac hedge a lot. Which means she’s been taking them to them empty farm yard across the road. We aren’t happy with that, as that is a busy road they cross to get there, and we see a lot of people speeding on that road.

This afternoon, I happened to look out our living room window and saw a couple of woodchucks, next to the kittens’ food bowl.

The littlest woodchuck was getting it on with the biggest one. Which was interesting, considering she is at least twice his size.

*sigh*

So I headed outside to inflict a bit of coitus interruptus. They were gone before I came around the house, but I decided to take a closer look at the junk pile. There’s an old pallet leaning against one side, that the kittens loved to climb and play on, that I moved aside.

Well, crud.

It looks like the littlest woodchuck has made his den under the junk pile. I made my way through the thistles on the other side, and could see a hole leading under the pile on that side, too.

Then the junk pile screamed at me.

I guess that explains why the kittens don’t seem to be around there as much anymore.

The woodchucks are now responsible for the yard cats losing three safe places they had for their kittens, including one that was being actively used.

I am not impressed. The yard cats, at least, earn their keep by keeping us rodent free.

Well. Except for the rodents that are bigger than they are, and eat our garden.

I am not impressed.

The Re-Farmer

Caught and confirmed! Plus, more critter damage

It took moving the garden cam a few times, but I finally managed it.

I caught him in the act.

It is confirmed that the woodchuck is eating our peas plants.

The green peas are completely shot this year. Between the heat, the dryness, the poor soil and Woody here, eating them, they’re toast. I don’t even know why we still water them, but we do.

Oddly, the purple peas aren’t being eaten. They’re still struggling from the drought conditions, though.

If we are to get any peas this year, it’s now down to the ones I planted among the corn as nitrogen fixers. This morning, I think I even saw a single sprout, under one of the purple corn plants!

When the girls were watering last night, they picked some zucchini and sunburst squash. One of the zucchini had a bite taken out of the end! Like something took a taste and decided they didn’t like it. I’ve seen a few eaten leaves, too. The deer leave the summer squash alone; the spikes on the leaf stems are too much for their tender lips. The woodchucks seem to have a slightly better tolerance for it.

This really, really frustrated me. We put the wire mesh around the Crespo squash in the morning, and by evening, large amounts of it were gone. These have far fewer spines on their stems compared to the summer squash.

Looking around the barriers, I found the likely place they got through. Not that it would have been hard, anywhere around it.

When we made this squash hill, we took advantage of a hill that was already there, created by drunk plowing. There are lower furrows near it, making the ground even more uneven than in other parts of the old garden area. That left a furrow and a drop that made it really easy for a critter to slip under the wire.

I tried to use wire soil staples to peg the bottom of the chicken wire to the ground, but couldn’t. There are so many rocks under there, I couldn’t push the wire through far enough to hold it down. I tried an area about two feet long by a foot wide, and there wasn’t a single place I could push the wire through before being blocked by buried rocks. I ended up folding the bottom of the wire mesh under, then weighing it down with bricks. When I checked this morning, there was no new damage.

At this point, we’re thinking we’re not going to get an Crespo squash. The plants are using their energy to recover from critter damage. Of the flowers we’ve seen, there have still been no female flowers, and as long as stuff like this is happening, they won’t have the energy to produce fruit. If any fruit does start to develop, there is no longer enough of a growing season left for them to fully mature.

I did not invest all this time, effort and money to feed rodents instead of my family.

Those critters have got to go!!

The Re-Farmer

In the garden, and critters not in the garden

Well, we seem to be back to having all the rain systems passing us by again. We are a bit cooler – as I write this, we are at “only” 26C/79F – but our humidex puts us at 33C/91F. Which I suppose helps, as we didn’t need to water the garden at all, yesterday. I probably could have left them be for another day, but I used a water soluble fertilizer on most of it, this morning.

This is the biggest of the Pixie melons that I checked on this morning. I just love how perfectly round they are! 😀

We had a whole bunch of poppies blooming this morning, including this tiny one. So far, it’s the only one with petals that are almost the pink they are supposed to be.

Unfortunately, the potatoes are getting more grasshopper damage these days.

They seem to prefer to eat the flowers! There is a fair bit of leaf damage, though the potatoes are doing so well, they can handle it pretty well right now. Though this seemed odd.

The Purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes have virtually no damage at all! I think I found only two leaves that had been chewed on. That’s it. All the other varieties, meanwhile, have quite a lot of chewed up leaves. Apparently, these potato leaves taste bad to grasshoppers! 😀

I don’t know what it is about today, but the entire household seems to be having a hard time. Perhaps it’s the humidity? I’m actually feeling an oppressive weight in my upper chest and throat that gets worse when I lie down, making it hard to sleep, and my chronic cough has been an issue, even though the rain we did get cleared the smoke out of the air. I don’t know, but we’re all barely able to drag our butts around to get anything done, and we all feel like falling asleep where we stand. Even the cats are sprawled all over the house in furry puddles, sleeping.

Speaking of furry puddles…

The big woodchuck was under the bird feeder earlier today – along with a chipmunk! You can’t really see it in the photo, but the woodchuck’s back hips are just sort of flattened to the ground, like a puddle.

It came back again later, then got some company.

The little one wandered over and started munching. They look peaceable in the photo, but when the littler one got too close to the big one, the big one attacked it! Had it flipped over on its back, teeth at its throat, in a heartbeat!

Then it let the little one go. This was clearly a dominance thing, not an attempt to do real damage. The little one didn’t fight back, but submitted to the big one. Given the size – and likely age – difference, that was probably a wise decision on the little one’s part!

With today being a day where manual labour seems to be out of the question (and there is much of it that needs to be done, but couldn’t be, because of the heat we’ve been having), I decided it was a good time to write out some plans and lists, and make some diagrams, for next year’s garden. I’ve got our catalogues out and started some wish lists, as well as working out what we want to do for next year. The girls and I will go over things and hash out details, using what we learned with this year’s gardening. Having this worked out early will be useful as we clean things up at the end of this growing season. The main thing I’m trying to figure out is what to use to build the first permanent, high raised beds, which will be where we currently have the low raised beds bordered with logs. Buying lumber is out of the question for our budget, but the barn and sheds got picked over by our vandal over the years before we moved here, quite thoroughly. The barn used to be full of salvaged lumber. I have a few ideas in mind, but it looks like it’ll be a while before we can see if they’re even possible. Ah, well. We’ll figure something out.

The Re-Farmer

Not a happy critter!

While heading back and forth between garden and house today, passing by the hanging bird feeder, I kept disturbing woodchucks, eating the sunflower seeds on the ground. I saw all four of them today, including the little one the girls had told me about. A few times, there were two of them at the bird seed at once.

Usually, they’d run off into the spruces, or under the garden shed. Then one of them decided to run along the back of the house, where we still have a row of various things used to hold the insulation we put around the based of the house in the winter. We just kept forgetting to move them. :-/ The little bugger decided to hide in the ceramic chimney inserts, running from one to the other, then back again. I didn’t want him using the house as a place to hide, so I tried to get him to go elsewhere, but he just wouldn’t leave the inserts.

I got close enough that I could have touched that angry looking face (not that I would have!), and he still wouldn’t run off! I finally had to get a long stick and basically shepherd him along before he finally ran to the garden shed.

Of the various woodchucks we’ve seen, there’s just the one that tends to freeze in a sort of panic mode, rather than run off like the others. He was especially unhappy that Nutmeg was with me. Nutmeg completely ignored him and kept trying to rub against me to pet him, even when the woodchuck tried running his way, saw him, froze and started to… growl? I’m not sure how to describe the noise it made!

Among the things I’ve read to use to keep woodchucks from eating the garden is to scatter cat hair around the plants, because cats are their natural predators. Which I find hilarious. The woodchucks are bigger than any of our yard cats! They also seem to get along just fine. I even saw a woodchuck drinking from the water bowl we have by the junk pile for Butterscotch and her kittens.

Cheeky little buggers.

Also… just look at that hand in the photo!!! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Smoked out

Today, we finally have cooler temperatures! According to the hourly forecasts, we should be at about 23C/73F right now, but we’re still at only 18C/64F, which is awesome. There are still predictions of rain, all of which have been passing south of us. We desperately need rain. I’ve been reading about how it’s affecting some of our farmers. Those growing things like oats have had their crops gone crispy. Cherry producers (I didn’t even know we had a cherry industry in our province!) have had their cherries bake, right on the trees.

On top of all that is the smoke. I had to make a trip into town this morning, and it’s even worse there. There are fires on the other side of the lake, which is likely why. There are no fires near us but, today, the smoke is heavy enough to affect visibility quite a bit. I was talking to my mother on the phone a little while ago, and the smoke coming into the house was so bad, I had to excuse myself for a couple of coughing fits while talking. I’ve been able to reduce my mystery coughing fits pretty well over the last few years, but with this smoke, I’ve had more in one day than I’ve had in the last 4 years since we’ve moved here. I’ve actually reversed the fan in my window to blow the smoke out, even though I would normally be drawing the cooler air in while we’ve got it.

This adorable monster was eating our bird seed this morning. I saw one of the smaller ones out my window, heading to the bird feeder, just a little while ago. I should probably chase them away, but as long as they’re eating the seeds, they’re not eating my garden, so… I’m letting them be for now.

I’ve got the garden cam set up to try and see what has been eating our peas. The only things that got caught were a skunk and Butterscotch going by. Skunks are omnivores, so it could potentially be a skunk, but the one I saw was just passing through.

When doing the watering last night, I uncovered the beds with radishes, chard, kale and kohlrabi. This morning, I left them uncovered. We’re overcast, so they don’t need the shade, and if we do get rain, I want them to get some!

While talking to my mother about the current drought conditions, I mentioned that there are people whose wells have gone dry. I told her I thought my brother had said our well is 80 feet deep. It’s a number that’s been bothering me, but I couldn’t remember him saying anything different for this well. The old well in the pump shack (which predates my family owning this property), I remember him saying is about 110 feet. My mother, however, corrected me. She didn’t know about the old well, but she did remember that the well by the house is a little over 150 feet deep.

I suddenly feel much, much better. There is no way my brother would have been wrong about that, since he was heavily involved when all the work was being done, so I don’t know where I got that 80 feet from. Especially since I know we have a deep well pump. “Deep” is a relative statement, depending on the geography and elevation, but I know that in our area, even 80 ft would be considered pretty deep. However, if we’re loosing pressure while using two hoses at the same time (granted, one of those hoses had been running a sprinkler for an hour) at 150 ft in current conditions, at 80 ft, our well would probably be dry right now. Which is a rather alarming thought.

And so we pray for rain, for respite for our farmers and firefighters, and to clear some of that smoke out of the air!

The Re-Farmer

Not as bad as I thought it would be

While doing my morning rounds, I checked the hole by the concrete stairs under the dining room door, and was happy to see the pieces of wood we used to block it looked undisturbed.

When I was done my rounds, I started working on getting that filled in, which meant I needed rocks. Since we got almost no rain at all yesterday, the garden needed watering, so I set up the sprinkler, then grabbed a wheelbarrow to start picking rocks.

Since the big woodchuck had conveniently dug up a lot of rocks for us, I started there. Last night, my daughters saw the woodchuck leaving the den, so they flooded it, then shoved some pruned branches into the opening before moving some of the soil over it.

This morning, while using a long handled garden claw to help pick rocks, I finished filling in the hold and spreading the sand and gravel out more evenly. We’ll have to come back to get rid of the sticks.

Most of these rocks were gathered from what the woodchuck dug up!

Then I just wandered along with the wheelbarrow, picking rocks as I went. Since was was using the garden claw to help moving them, I was also able to break up some of the old plow furrows as well. I picked only the larger rocks, up to a point. The biggest ones were set aside to be available for things like weighing down row covers or whatever.

By the time I got this many, the heat was getting a bit much, so I just hoped they would be enough and moved on. I could easily have filled the wheelbarrow entirely, if I stayed out longer.

Once at the stairs, the first thing I needed to figure out was what to do with the mock orange. I didn’t want to dig it up, even though we plan to transplant it. We still need to decide where to put it. So I took a piece of plastic that had been used as a row cover and wrapped it around the back of the mock orange, then used twine to tie it up. This turned out to be enough to be able to access the hole.

While I was working on the mock orange and moving the wood to access the opening, to my amazement, I heard something scrambling out the other side of the stairs and run off. I could not beleve it! The woodchuck had somehow squeezed through the other side of the stairs!

Then came the assessment phase.

The curious thing about this hole is the lack of dug up soil piled around. So I played the contortionist as best I could, to get pictures through the opening.

This is where I found my good news. The hole didn’t go any deeper! The opening was dug just enough for the woodchuck to access under the stairs. That explains the lack of dug up soil.

What a relief!

Time to start filling with rocks!

In the one picture, I could finally see the opening to under the stairs. I can certainly understand why critters have been going under there! What a great, safe hideaway.

Which is great if we’re talking kittens. Not so great when we’re talking woodchucks!

Okay, so the hole is filled with rocks, but there is still the space between the stairs and the wall. As long as it was there, things would still try to get under there.

Time to raid our pieces of rigid insulation!

A couple of larger pieces were used to cover the back of the stairs, which would cover the opening under them completely. Another, shorter sheet was jammed between those pieces and the brick wall.

More smaller pieces were used to fill in the gap at the end, and rocks were piled up to secure them even more.

What looks like a gap at this end is blocked by a lumpy area of concrete.

Done!

Before I headed inside, I went to move the sprikler, startling the woodchuck that was watching from under the spirea near the stone cross!

When I headed out a while ago to move the sprinkler again, I could see that something had tried to get under again. I had to replace a small piece of insulation and push the rocks back. On the other side, something had tried to burrow in the gap that isn’t a gap, but only enough to displace some of the small rocks.

It seems to be working!

After replacing the rocks, I used those little pieces of plastic garden fencing to block it off even more.

I am much relieved that the damage was so very minor. I do wish I hadn’t had to block off the back of those stairs entirely, though. It was a really good, safe place for mamas to have their kittens.

Ah, well. Better that than having a woodchuck living under there!

The Re-Farmer