Clean up: garden prep and bale

Yes! It’s finally done!

We’ve broken down and removed the straw bale we got for mulch last year.

It’s amazing just how much material is packed into a round bale.

The girls continued taking wheel barrows of straw to the garden until the core was small enough to tip over and roll away.

There was still plenty left behind, of course.

Despite rolling against the grain, it still left a trail, all the way to the garden. 😀

Note in the above photo, how wide the mulched area in the garden is. We’ve already widened it on one side a bit, since we last worked on it.

Once in place, the core could simply be unrolled, leaving behind a thick enough layer that it only needed to be tamped down in places.

You can really see the difference between what was the bottom of the bale and the top; the part that was touching the ground is still tightly wrapped, and already starting to decompose, while the top is much looser, as it had room to spread while we took layers off to cover the septic tank and mulch the old kitchen garden.

This is where the bale sat all winter. When it was first moved, and my daughter was raking up what was left behind to haul away, she noticed lots of worms. When I was transplanting the raspberries, I noticed plenty of worms, too. This is a good sign!

This area behind the house is very spotty as far as how the grass is going, with the area closest to the house having almost no grass at all. So we’re not too worried about the grass that was under the bale; we’ll need to find some shade hardy grass seed for the area, anyhow.

And here we have the mulched garden area for next year. In the foreground, to the left, is a big gooseberry bush that I hope will actually produce some berries this year. Next to it is a chokecherry, then where the raspberries were transplanted, a crab apple tree, and the compost. Which, I discovered as I tried to turn it, was used for garbage at some point, as I found pieces of food tray foam and the remains of a plastic tray that held transplants. Plus, lots of branches, still. This is where a pile of pruned branches and cut back trees were piled, then moved to the middle of the garden, before we moved here. The plan had been to burn them – yes, even when it was right on the compost pile, under that apple tree! – but we broke it down and moved it manually, last spring. We’ll have fire pit fuel for a long time, just from that one pile!

The next steps for the mulched garden area is to “frame” it with some of those logs we have from getting the trees cleared. The idea is to keep the straw from being dragged around with our feet as we work in it. Other material will be added to it, to build up the layers and improve that rock-hard soil. Covering it all with landscape cloth to prevent the grass and weeds from growing through the mulch would be good, if we can get enough to cover the whole area.

We’re getting a pretty decent sized garden out of this! Obviously, nothing close to what it was before, but we can amend and re-claim sections of it, little by little, over the years, while planning out where we want to put more permanent plantings.

Slowly but surely, we’ll get it done! 🙂

The Re-Farmer


First ones

Yesterday, the girls needed to pick up stuff not available locally, so we made a trip into the city.

While we were out, a wonderful, long rain came through our region.

We could actually see the difference in the trees between when we drove into the city, and when we drove back!

The only down side is that we had also been getting strong winds. Enough to blow over the bird feeder stand in its summer location. The hanging feeder fell apart, but thankfully, it just pops back together easily. I was needing to refill it, anyhow.

I also finally saw birds using the bird bath, in its now location. So I’m happy. 🙂

I had nothing I needed to get in the city myself, but of course I was checking things out. Especially the garden centres. One of our goals is to plant food trees, so I’ve been checking out the varieties of apples – I’d like something other than crab apples! – that can grow in our region, as well as anything else that produces fruit, nut or berry.

I ended up buying our first food trees.


Also known as haskap, these berries were on my list. I’ve never actually had one before, but they can be used like blueberries, raspberries or strawberries. Part of why I included them on my list was due to their extreme hardiness. These babies can withstand -45C temperatures! They are also an early producer, with ripe berries (after the second year) by mid-June.

This is a variety that needs male and female plants to pollinate, and when I saw there was only one of each left, I grabbed them. We won’t expect berries in their first year, but we should have plenty, next year.

What we now have to do is figure out where to plant them. They require sun and shade, can grow 5-10 ft high, and should be planted about 4 feet apart. We thought of taking out more of that spirea by the storage house, and planting them near the grapes, but with the size and spacing needed, I’m moving away from that idea. They could be planted in one of my newly mulched beds in the south yard. They will also be easy to water, there.

Something to figure out over the next couple of days. 🙂

I’m really looking forward to seeing how these grow!

The Re-Farmer

Shingle damage, fixed

We had a nice day, and my wonderful daughter was able to get up onto the roof to take care of the damaged shingles we’d noticed a few days back.

This is what one section looked like before.


While up there, she noticed quite a few were loose, and took care of them, too. It definitely looked like they were damaged when that patch above them was done.

Here is how it looks now.


She also sealed the exposed roofing nails that were part of the higher patch.

Then she moved on to the other section of roof to fix this shingle…


This is how it looks now.


When this was done, she went to the other side, were we can’t see the shingles from the ground, to check for any others that needed fixing. She also checked the area above their window, where water has been leaking in the winter. She did some more patching, but also noticed the area above the window did not feel as solid as it should.

She noticed many patch jobs.

We so need a new roof. 😦

The Re-Farmer

Mason bee hive set up

The trees are starting to put out their leaves, which means the pollinators will be out soon.

Time to put up the mason bee hive we picked up a while back.

We decided to place it near the crab apple trees, since that’s where the most flowers are soon going to be. That meant attaching it to one of the spruce trees.

Which… the box isn’t really set up for.


Under the disc that covers an opening into the butterfly space, there is just this to hang it with. Which might work in some areas, but I can see this falling in the wind, so easily.

I figured I’d try bungee cords, instead.


I had to find a tree small enough that my pair of cords could reach around both the width of the tree, and the depth of the hive.

I also turned it away from the apple trees, so it won’t have the north winds blowing right into the openings. This tree is also surrounded by other trees, providing shade and shelter as well. The next thing I want to do is provide a water source; just a shallow dish with some smooth rocks for the bees and butterflies to land on. I already have appropriate rocks. I just need to find an appropriate container and the right place to set it. Between watering the bird bath and the bee dish, there should also be enough mud available for the bees to use in the hive.

We’ve never had anything like this before, so we shall see how it works out. In the future, we plan to plant bee and butterfly gardens – well away from the house, since my husband is allergic to stings. (Most of the local bee species don’t sting, so it’s more honey bees, wasps and hornets that are of concern.) One of my brothers even has milkweed on his property, so I hope to get some growing here, too. If it does work out, I plan to get more of these, in different styles.

Also in future plans are setting up bat houses and maybe even purple martin houses – both do a great job of eating mosquitoes!

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

Today’s kitty pictures.

When starting my rounds this morning, I had both mamas looking at the door, waiting for me in the sun room! As soon as I opened the second door from the old kitchen, Beep Beep ran right in, then looked at me… waiting…

For what, I have no idea, but it gave me a chance to peek at her babies.


Just look at them! They’re like an adorable row of furry sausages. ❤

Then I looked into the box nest for Butterscotch’s babies.

It was empty.

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I see you!

The girls and I made a trip into the city today, and when we got back, I made sure to visit the mamas and kittens in the sun room.

Two of the kittens have their eyes open! The orange and white tabby does not, and I couldn’t see the face of the tuxedo to tell one way or the other.

They are so adorable!!!

In other news, we are finally ready to get the trees done. All of them, not just a half-job. I made the call this morning, and they will come out within the next two weeks.

So two live trees that are putting the house as risk and one dead tree that is a risk of falling onto the power lines will come down completely. Then the power lines will be cleared of branches the whole way. They will be bringing a chipper to do the small stuff, and we will be keeping the wood (there was the option of them taking the wood away, if we wanted).

We’re thinking about what the next big job (money wise, at least) should be a priority. It will mostly likely be to rent a heavy duty chipper for a week, and clear out the piles of branches all over the place. Getting a quote to get the driveway done with fresh gravel is also on the list, but as much as it could use it now, this will likely be a next year thing.

Little by little, we’re getting the job done!

The Re-Farmer

Looking around

We had a very foggy morning today, and there was still fog when I went out to do my rounds. I decided to see if I could get some good pictures from behind the barn, and ended up checking things out further. I have not actually gone done this way, this far, since we moved here, so much of what I was seeing was new to me.

The first thing I stopped to check out was some fencing around trees. There used to be a pig pen and a manure pile in the area. I can see that the fencing went around the trees, but I am unsure of why. It was done long ago, and much of it has fallen.

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