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

Status after storms and rain

This morning, I made a point of walking around the yard to see if there was any damage from the storms.  We’re all still very wet – enough that our sump pump has actually turned on! – and everything is so wonderfully green!

First order of business was to clean out the cat food containers, which were full of water logged kibble.

I had several cats come out to see what I was doing.

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None of them were co-operative when it came to getting their pictures taken! 😀

I was very pleased at what the flower garden I’ve been working on looked like.

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Absolutely none of the uncovered cardboard blew away.  I am quite surprised, really.  With the winds we had for a while, I’m surprised quite a lot of things didn’t blow away!

No roof damage.  No dead branches fallen down – at least not in the yard.  Just some small branches and twigs.

We’re getting to where we should be mowing the lawn soon.  We’re expecting more rain today, but even without more rain, the grass is far too wet.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to get it done on Monday.

Not that there is much grass to mow.

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The above photo is of the yard to the east of the house, between the house and a flower garden on that side (though that “flower” garden is now mostly bushes).  On the far side of this garden, there is better grass.

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The above photo is the west section of the yard, near the fire pit.  Mostly moss, some weeds, and very little actual grass.

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The north side of the yard has a dead patch that perfectly corresponds with the overhanging maple branches above. Hmm.  Do you think there’s a correlation? LOL

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The south areas of the yard has more grass, especially on the south east, but under the Chinese Elm by the kitchen, it’s more weeds and dirt than grass.

That tractor tire is an interesting bit of decor. ;-D

At some point, though not likely this year, we will work to improve the lawn.  Even if it’s to move to a ground cover rather than grass.  Some areas are sparse because vehicles get driven in to the door fairly regularly, so I wouldn’t expect anything to do well in those areas.

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One thing I was seeing a lot of were black ant hills, like these.  The one in the middle was the biggest I saw.  Most were like the tiny bundle of soil to the left of it.  They’re not good to have in the yard, since they destroy root systems with their digging, but I’m not too worried about them at this point.

Our plans for the day will depend a lot on the weather, but I do hope we’ll still get some outside work done. I had been thinking of building a new barb wire gate for the other driveway, and we still might start preparations for it (like seeing if we can salvage the wood fence posts in the flower garden to replace the rotting posts in the existing barb wire gate) today.  We shall see how it works out.

Little by little, it’s getting done. 🙂

The Re-Farmer