Morning kitties, cold damage and more thinking ahead

Let’s play “can you spot all the kittens?”

I had to dig one of them out from behind Beep Beep’s head. 😀

Butterscotch’s kittens are much harder to get pictures of.

I finally just stuck my phone in and used voice activation to take some photos, hoping it was angled right.

I got one shot that managed to include all the babies. 😀

We want to move the kittens and mamas out of their nests so we can put down fresh, clean cat beds, but don’t want to disturb them so soon after birth.

In other areas…

I took a closer look at one of our surviving blue spruces, of a group of three that had been planted way two close together, some years ago.

Most of the remaining branches have cold damage like this at the tips. It should be okay, but might take a while to recover from having its newest growth killed off.

Yesterday, I posted a photo of one area we will need to address, when the time comes for us to plant the fruit and nut trees we are planning to do in the future. Here is another area we’ll have to figure out.

Among the trees I hope we will be able to plant are Korean pine. This is a tree that needs to have a “shade shelter” for the first couple of years, and this location naturally provides that for most of the day. However, as you can see, this is also where water pools in the spring. That shade also means the snow takes a lot longer to melt away, and the ground stays frozen longer.

What we eventually want to do is get this package of hardy nut trees. It will be some time before we can afford that. In the shorter term, I hope to slowly acquire a good variety of fruit trees and bushes from this site, that can survive in our growing zone. They even have a variety of apricot that can grow in a zone 3!

This is one of the reasons I want to expand the inner yard to include the outer yard. I see no point in replacing the old and broken fences around the inner yard. If we just get rid of those (the chain link fence is still sturdy, and can at least be used as a trellis), we’ll have easier access to areas we can plant food trees and bushes.

We just have to make sure the fence around the outer yard doesn’t have any gaps or weak spots the renter’s cows can break through, if his electric fence gives out again. 🙂

We still need to finish clearing and cleaning the inner yard, but if all goes well, I hope to get started on the outer yard this summer, too. Especially if we want to start salvaging some things we’re finding to use for gardening and so one. I can foresee a time when we’ll even have greenhouses in the outer yard area. But first, we need to do a lot of clean up out there – including cleaning up a collapsing log building, and figuring out how to salvage the log building that we used to use as a chicken coop, when I was a kid. That one still looks solid.

Little by little, we’re making progress! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Drainage

After all the snowmelt yesterday, we had ourselves a few skating rinks around the yard! The ice wasn’t quite thick enough to hold my weight as I did my rounds.

Boy am I glad I found those rubber boots. Even if I had to cut the tops. Wider would have been nice, too, but at a size 12 men’s, I could at least get my feet in them. 😀

So, there is definitely a reason the south fence posts are not doing very well.

When we first tried moving on the driveway side of this fence, there was a really rough area along the fence line that we couldn’t use the riding mower on without risking damage (now that we’ve got a working push mower, I should be able to get in there). When I asked my brother about it, he said it was a drainage ditch.

Hhhmm. It looks like someone took a tiller along the fence line. Not much of a ditch at all.

At the end of the fence, there is an actual trench leading to the ditch along the road; deep enough that I’ve had to make a “bridge” to cross it with the riding mower when I used it to drag the top of a tree away.

The posts in the south fence are all rotting on the bottom, and some are only being held up by the barbed wire they are supposed to be holding. Even the ones that are still holding out, I could probably break them out of the ground easily.

What we’ll have to decide on is whether or not we should dig a better drainage ditch along this fence. I want to get rid of it completely, but we might not do that for some time. At the very least, I’ll probably take out the two bottom strands of barbed wire, so I can duck through the fence more easily, but the top one is holding the power cable. Having an outlet on the east fence is very useful, and not just for the lights. I’d like to bury the line instead but, as you can see, if I bury it along the current fence line, it’ll end up having water over it. Yeah, I’d make sure to run it through protective tubing, but still… water and electricity don’t mix! Plus, we might decide to run it through a different location, instead, so I don’t want to do anything as relatively permanent as burying it just yet.

Today is supposed to be another warm one. At this rate, I’ll be able to start accessing the barn easily in just a day or two. That will be a big help in getting the new part basement cleared out of stuff!

Looking forward to it. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

So, this happened…

Today, I stayed in town for my daughter’s short shift. One of the things I ended up doing while there was picking up a magnetic lifter. You know, the kind of thing you would use when you drop a screw and it rolls under a shelf. I wanted to try and see if it would help me find nails in the dirt in the old wood pile.

It kind of worked.

The first challenge involved kittens, who thought it was a springy new toy!

The second was the fact that I wasn’t completely sure if I was feeling a magnetic pull or not. I did find a nail in my test, but I don’t know that the magnet is quite strong enough to find things in that much soil. Sometimes, though, it felt like there was a constant magnetic pull, even though I could find nothing in the ground.

The third problem was… well…

…let me show you.

My attempts to get a photo of the nail it successfully found in the dirt was foiled by Doom Guy, who was absolutely desperate for snuggles!

His claws are incredibly sharp.

He is also having some major respiratory problems. 😦

Which meant I was stuck with a sneezing, snorting, snotty cat that was poking holes in my body while trying to get comfortable in my arms.

And shoulders.

And back.

And head…

Since I was in the area and not working on the area today (I try to keep Sundays as my day of rest, as much as possible), I decided to look beyond were I’d cleared, and get an idea of what I would be working in, next.

I found more of my mother’s flowers. Sort of.

I recognize those plants with the long, slender, pointed leaves. There is a bunch of them in the old kitchen garden. Those have finally started to show flower spikes. I doubt these will bloom at all. They are growing among many dead cherry trees that have new cherry shoots coming up at their bases. My mother had mentioned planting some flowers here, then blaming them for apparently killing some spruce trees I was telling her about. Except these aren’t near the spruce trees I was talking about. Anyhow, I did know she had deliberately planted flowers under the trees somewhere in this area, and now I have found them.

Once this area is cleared and more sunlight gets to the ground, I’m sure we’ll see more flowers, just as we are already seeing more flowers along the edges of the spruce grove that I’d already cleared a bit.

Then I found this.

That’s, my friends, a big patch of poison ivy.

Western Poison Ivy, to be precise.

sigh

We’ve been on the look out for poison ivy since moving here, and while we have seen some similar plants, I was able to confirm that they were NOT poison ivy. I had never seen poison ivy on the property before, even as a child who spent many, many hours roving wild among the trees. I had begun to hope I still wouldn’t.

sigh, again.

The patch doesn’t seem to be very wide, but I also can’t see how deep it extends into the trees – and I won’t be able to until I start clearing back there.

I’ve been looking up how to get rid of it, and not looking forward to the job. At this point, I think I will just leave it for next year. I can avoid the patch when I’m clearing behind the outhouse and moving the debris pile I’ve raked out of the wood pile area. If I have time this year to clear into where those flowering plants that aren’t flowering right now are, I can avoid it on that side, too.

I really could have done without this.

Ah, well. It is what it is. We’ll deal.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: it’s for the birds, and planning ahead

Today, I continued my spring clean up around the yard. Now that we have yard equipment in the side of the garage we’d stored the foam insulation from around the house last summer, this year I’ve put them into the barn for storage.

I’d love to empty that barn so we can actually use it.

All in good time!

For now, I went back to the jasmine bed, mulched it with straw and began saturating the mulch with water. Though we did get rain recently, it wasn’t enough and everything is still bone dry.

While the hose was running there, I decided to move the unused bird bath from beside the storage house to the flower bed by the bird feeder. I found a block to use as a foundation and used a hoe to dig down and level a spot for it, first. Once the bird bath was in place, I moved the bird feeder stand to its summer location. Over the next month or so, the flowers should hide at least part of the bases.

That bird bath needs a thorough scrubbing and re-painting. We shall see if that becomes a job for this year, or next. Or maybe we’ll get a new one.

I’m hoping the water is far enough away from the platform feeder that falling seeds will not become a problem. When the lilac beside it is in full leaf, it should provide some shade. This should slowly become a nice little bird garden, I hope. 🙂

The birds were quick to come back to the feeding station, but I haven’t seen them checking out the water, yet.

I also cleared out the bricks that I took out when rebuilding the jasmine bed. I have decided what I will be using them for.

This is the window to the old part basement, where we used to throw logs in for the wood burning furnace. The roof that keeps precipitation from leaking into the basement is on a hinge, but I haven’t decided on how I will get it to stay all the way up while I work. If I really need to, I can also remove it until the job is done. The cat kibble is under there to keep it out of the weather. There are chunks of brick and blown in leaves, but otherwise I think it’s just dirt. The “retaining walls” built up on the sides are slowly getting unstable.

The plan is to clear all that out and redo it with a brick “floor” under the window. Which will also be a good time to get the foam insulation out of the opening and put the metal mesh window over it for the summer. The wood frame for that is rotting, though, so I hope to scrounge up the materials to redo that as well.

For now, I’ve just brought over the bricks and filled the wheel barrow with water. Partly to get rid of any dirt and whatnot stuck to them, but also to wash away any ants or other leggy critters that might get transferred over with the bricks. I’d seen some tiny red ants when I dug the bricks out, and some were still there when I moved them to the wheel barrow, so I want to make sure to get rid of those or any eggs that might be attached. I might not get back to this until tomorrow, though. It’s already gotten very hot out there – we are at 23C right now – and this area is in full sun.

That reminds me. Time to check on the kitties in the sun room again!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: firepit area, gate and fence line start

This evening, I decided to be methodical about clearing the west yard trees, and get right into the fence line.

It was a lot more work than I expected!

This is what it looked like when I left it last time.

I didn’t get photos from this angle today, but if you look behind the dead trees I cut down, that’s the area I focused on.

I had not really intended to start on the fence line on this side yet, but the mess was starting to get to me.

I am using the row of elm trees as my guide line for clearing the fence.  Anything between where those trees are and the fence line will be taken out.  This will leave a walkable path to access the fence.

I started at the gate post and made a discovery.

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There’s two of them.

From what I can figure out, as the older gate post started to become unstable, a second post as added, and new and old were tied together with a loop of barbed wire.

It was most likely a temporary fix that ended up a permanent one.

The problem is…

Both posts are rotten and broken at the bottom.

The hedge that had grown into the fence was pretty much the only thing holding it up.

I don’t really want to replace this fence.  I’d rather take it out completely.  I am wanting to install new fencing that will include both driveways, instead.  So for now, this old fence will remain for as long as it holds up.

As I worked down the line, I also discovered that there’s not just two gate posts, but two fences!  Somewhere along the way, the old barbed wire fence got a mesh wire fence added with it.  Then other cable type wire was also added, along the bottom.  You can see part of it at the bottom of one of the gate posts, above.

This made clearing away the lilacs more challenging, because it was woven through both the barbed and mesh wire.  For many of them, I had to cut them at least twice, so I could get the pieces out of the fence.

A surprising amount of the lilac was already dead.  Most of the living lilac is on the other side of the fence.  Which I will leave for now.  It’s keeping the fence from falling over.

In the end, it took me almost two hours to clear barely 8 feet of fence line!

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I’m also clearing in between and around the lilac and caragana that is in line with the row of elm trees.  That included taking down a dead lilac that was a thick as a tree!

I’m going to have to change up when I work in the yard.  We’re getting heat wave weather warnings for the next week.  I like to do the work in the afternoon or evening, but the hottest part of the day tends to be around 5pm.  It’s almost 9pm as I write this, and we’re still at 25C, with a “feels like 29C”.  I’m going to have to start working on this stuff in the morning, instead, when it’s cooler, because by afternoon, it’s supposed to reach 29C, and feel like 34C, but be only 18C in the morning.

I am not a morning person. 😀

Well, if I’m driving my daughter to her shifts that start at 8 or 9am anyway, it will work out for me to do yard work when I get back in the morning, instead of after I pick her up at 4 or 5pm.

She has a road test booked in September.  She’ll be able to drive herself to work, if we don’t need the van for something else.

It is becoming increasingly clear we are going to need a second vehicle for the girls.  That and our utter dependency on having a vehicle makes me extra paranoid about having only one.  It’s not like there are any buses we could use instead, or anything is close enough to walk to!  We went about a month not driving our van until we had the money to replace the fuel pump, to avoid causing more damage (which our mechanic really appreciated), and that was enough for us!

At least we’ve finally reached a point where we are caught up.  As of this month, we have no expenses left related to our move.  Yay!  It only took us 9 months. :-/  Starting next month, we can start diverting money to a contingency fund to pay for things like getting the trees cleared from the power lines and roof in the fall, or towards getting a second bathroom installed.  Or unexpected emergencies, like the van breaking down!

The problem is, there are SO many things that need work around the house and yard, it will be hard to prioritize.  We had hoped to get the second bathroom installed this summer.  It’s high on the priority list, but clearing the trees became the higher priority since… well… we’d really like to NOT have our roof damaged or have branches knock out our power lines.

Little by little, it’ll get done.

The Re-Farmer

Looking around, planning ahead

The heat is on for the next few days, with some thunderstorms predicted by the end of the week.  This will limit what we can do in the yard, and when, for a while.

After dropping my younger daughter off for her first shift at her new job, I decided to finish up the sun room.  I’ve emptied it out completely, and mopped the concrete floor.  I’d originally intended to take a hose to it, but there is nowhere for the water to drain.

I mopped that floor three times, with many changes of water.  I swept it as much as I could, but there was just so much dust left behind!!

It is now drying, so I figured this was a good time to make a post. 🙂

Yesterday was our day of rest, and I took advantage of it to just walk around, checking things out now that it’s all as green as it’s going to get, and thinking ahead.

After I finish with the area I’ve been working on for the past while, I intend to slowly work my way through the maple grove to the garden area.

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There was a time when this space was a path to the garden.  I think that stick next to the dead spruce tree is marking one side of where it used to be.

As you can see by the dead branches in the foreground, there’s more than dead spruces blocking the old path.  There is where there are a bunch of maples that had been cut down, cut into pieces, then left there.  I don’t know who started the work and then stopped part way through; for all I know, it was my late brother, which might also explain why it was left unfinished.

Before we can even start on taking down the small dead trees (the big ones will wait until we have a chain saw), I will have to clean up all the deadwood on the ground.

We’re going to have several years worth of fire wood for cookouts, by the time it’s done!

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I squeezed my way through to check out the West end of the garden space.  There, I discovered a huge mass of horseradish!  My mother had told me she’d transplanted some there, but that the younger of my brothers had plowed too close to the pole and dug it up, so she transplanted it again, under a spruce three nearer the house.  Clearly, she missed some, and it is thriving!

When I was younger, this area was pretty much all open.  Now, there is a dense, virtually impenetrable wall of trees where I remember we once had a cabbage patch.  From what I could see, along with the usual maple, elm and black spruce, I believe there is also some Colorado blue spruce and birch.

Unfortunately, the trees near the pole are tall enough that they are reaching the power lines!  I think they are still clear enough, though, that we can safely cut them down without hitting the the lines.  At the very least, we will need to thin the area down.  It is so dense, everything is fighting for survival.  I can tell quite a bit of it is deliberately planted, such as the Colorado blue spruce (not a native species) and the row of birches, plus the rows of black spruce, but I’m pretty sure there is quite a bit that is self sown.  Some of the black spruces, perhaps, and most likely the maples and elms.  I am hoping to save as much as I can; the birches look pretty good, but I will likely be removing 2 out of every 3 trees in the rows of spruces.  Though just removing the dead ones might achieve the same goal.  I would really like to save the Colorado blues.

A number of years ago, the Canadian government was encouraging people living on farms to plant more trees and shelter belts.  They had a program where people could sign up and order all kinds of trees, shipped to them for free.  I have no idea if this program is still available, but I know lots of people took advantage of it.  I am thinking that this is how my parents ended up planting so many of the trees I’m finding, including the shelter belt outside of the yard, along where the cow fence is now.

After checking this area out, I took a look at the North fence line.  At this end, there are a number of trees that look like they were deliberately planted, along with some obvious self-sown ones.  There is a gap between the big trees and the fence line, which is good.  I’d like to clear that gap, so that the fence is accessible.  Once the lilac hedge starts, though, I couldn’t see the the fence line at all, and couldn’t tell if there was a space between the bushes and the fence.  While walking along the lilacs to try and see, I did find a couple of chokecherry trees.

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There are quite a few berries forming, though a lot of them seem to have insect damage to them.  We shall see how they do throughout the season.

Eventually, I found a gap in the lilacs and went to see how close to the fence line they are and found…

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… some mystery wire.

I have no idea what kind of wire this is, other than it is NOT fence wire.  I can’t even see anything nearby that it might be from, or that might explain why it is here.

Something else I’m going to have to clear out and add to the haul-away pile.

The lilacs, meanwhile, are well into the fence line.  Not going to be able to clear a path out.  Ah, well.

As I was finishing up, I went past a bush my mother planted by the clothes line platform.  I had ruthlessly pruned it down, because it was in the way of trying to hang things on the line.

It seems to have like the pruning, because it is now completely dense with foliage, and covered with flower buds, including one early bloomer!

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Based on how many buds I’m seeing, by the time this bush is in full bloom, we’ll hardly be able to see any leaves at all; it’ll be a mass of white!

I’m rather looking forward to seeing that.

Well, I think the sun room floor has had enough time to dry.  Now I have to decide what to put back, and what will have to go into storage!

By the end of the day, we should finally have a usable sun room. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Clean Up: Firepit area gate

After cleaning up in the bushes near the fire pit yesterday, today’s goal was to access the gate by the fire pit, before continuing in that area.  We needed someplace to pile the wood we’re cleaning out.

Before I could start on that, though, my younger daughter and I made a trip into town.  She had dropped off some resumes a few days ago.  The next day, one place called back, but she was with me at the shop with the mower, so they asked her to call back the next day.

That was yesterday.  They booked an interview with her for this morning.

And by “interview”, it turned out they meant, “what hours can you work and here are your free t-shirts.”

Starting next week, my daughter begins training as a cashier at the grocery store we usually shop at. 😀

That was a nice way to start the day!

So I didn’t get started on accessing the gate until this afternoon.

Here is what it looked like before.

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The far end of the gate is completely hidden by overgrown lilacs, caraganas and a maple tree.

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The picket fence thing that was there appeared to be attached to the barb wire gate only by this length of wire, twisted around, and one section of the top barb wire looped around a board.   So it wasn’t going to take much to separate them.

But first, I needed to clear the gate post.

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Most of what I had to clear away was from a lilac bush, including a lot of dead branches and stems.  My mother likely planted it there, so I didn’t want to cut it all away.  The maple would have seeded itself, and likely the caragana as well.

I’ve left most of the caragana for now, but when it comes time to take down the two dead spruce trees, we might have to cut those back more.  We shall see when the time comes.

That done, I could open the barb wire gate.

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The closure of which promptly broke in my hands.

All the wood there is really quite rotten.

Some of the barb wire has come loose from the posts.  The fence part also had boards coming loose.  It’s all really quite rotten.

Have I mentioned that much of the wood around here is really old and rotten?  I think I might have… 😉

It took some doing to get the fence part loose.  Hidden in the tall grass were fallen branches that had to be moved, and the grass itself – including years of thatch – had a good grip on the bottom of it!

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I decided to leave the fence part like this for now, so that it’s visible.  There are so many nails in that thing, I don’t want to take any chances of someone stepping on it.

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Speaking of nails, it turned out that part of the fence was indeed attached, by wire, to the gate post.  This length of board, however, was no longer attached to the fence part.  Even with all those nails!

I count 20.

While getting all this open, I could see something blue peaking through the grass.  Once done, I yanked it out to see what it was.

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It seems to be a bell for a child’s bike.

Why was it there, and how many years as has it been there?

That done, I moved the barb wire gate to the outside of the yard, then cleaned up all the cut wood from clearing the gate, plus the pile from yesterday.

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Since I had all that handy wood, I fixed the broken closure on the gate.

Here is the after picture.

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There’s going to be a lot more to be added to the pile over the next while, so I am leaving the gate open for now.

All of this was about two hours of work.  Not too shabby!  I’ve stopped for the afternoon, though.  I plan to continue where I left off yesterday, but we were getting into the hotted part of the day, so I will wait until the early evening, when it starts to get cooler.  Now that this is done, I’ll be able to clean things up right away, too.

I placed the pile far enough away to completely clear the open gate, plus leave room to access the fence, if necessary.  Seeing the fence from this side, I was reminded that, at some point, it would be good to re-fence the entire house yard.  All of it, including the fence lines that are bordered by roads, if possible.  I say “if possible” because they are so full of trees, and my mother’s lilac border along the garden section.  It would be good to have something other than barbed wire fencing and gates!  I would still want to have a gate here, by the fire pit, and the one by the garden.  I’d even like to add another gate to the south fence line, so that we could drive into the yard at one end, then out again at the other.

Hmmm.  Thinking of it that way, it might just be easier to build a new fence on the other side of the driveway.   And if we do that, may as well extend to the fence that’s keeping the renter’s cows out.  Get rid of the current house yard fencing, completely.  Wow.  That would really extend the size of our yard!

That, however, is likely many years into the future.  Still, it’s something we can talk about and plan for.

Later.

I have to keep reminding myself.  This year is our “figure it out” year, and the focus for now is on the house and yard.

That is plenty of work all on its own! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

I found them!

With this wonderful rain we’ve been having, there has been so much new growth.

When I had the chance to go around the house with the weed trimmer, I found a lovely surprise.

The horseradish has emerged.

In two places!

I found the first one in the end of the flower garden, where we’ve been putting feed out for the birds and deer.  I had just moved the bird feeder stand into that area, shifting about to find the most steady spot for it, and it was most certainly not there, just a few days ago.

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In fact, it’s growing out in one of the first spots I’d set the stand.  If it had been a bit more level around there, the base of the stand would have been right on top of it!

The other greenery, my mom tells me are weeds.

I now know which spruce tree by the house my mom meant, when she told me where she transplanted the horseradish intentionally.

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It’s partly hidden by saplings and other growth.

Both areas have been cleared up a bit with the weed trimmer; some of it, I’ll have to come back with the pruning shears I found.

Using one of the 100 ft extension cords my older brother gifted to us, so we could have electricity to plug in our van in the winter, was enough for me to go around much of the house, as well as most of the south end of the yard.  There were just a couple of places I couldn’t reach.

While working around one area by the fence, I saw a frog hopping in the grass.  A wood frog, which is very common around here.  I wasn’t able to get a picture, though.  Ah, well.  We may not see them much, but we sure hear them a lot, in the evenings!

I was glad to get the trimming done, but it was so muggy, my face was just dripping, even though I wasn’t exerting myself at all.  It wasn’t even particularly hot – only about 18C.

There had been predictions of more rain this afternoon, but that seems to have changed.  After that, there’s no rain predicted until more storms are supposed to arrive on Wednesday, so we should have time to mow the lawn and build that gate. 🙂

The Re-Farmer