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


Up and running again

Well, I’m glad my brother has been as dedicated to taking in-progress photos as I have become! After emailing him about what happened to the snow blower, he was able to email me back a photo of exactly where the fuel line was supposed to go (something I could not really see without taking the cover off, but could find by feel). He told me I should be able to push it in, and confirmed that it was solidly in place, when he attached the fuel line to the carburetor. It seems to have vibrated itself out, which really shouldn’t happen.

Continue reading

A year ago today – we made it!

Well, today is it.  The one year anniversary for all 4 of us arriving at the farm.

We arrived shortly after midnight.  We still remember the final stretch.  Almost 1800 kilometers of driving (with a broken door), and less than 10 minutes from home.  I saw a shadow flash across oncoming headlights and stomped on the brakes.

The cat carriers set up on boxes behind us went flying.  The cat lying on one of them ended up in the front seat.  Stuff fell on top of the bucket we were using to transport the fish.

But we managed to NOT hit the deer.

Everyone was okay, though the cats were pretty freaked out!  How’s that for a welcome home!!

The main thing was, we made it.  We were finally together again.

For my older daughter and I, all we really wanted to do was sleep.  Which had to wait until we got the cats into the house and closed off into a room while we brought in the plants (some died from the cold, though our jade tree recovered), the fish (they died a few days later. 😦 ), the computers and most of the other stuff we managed to jam into the back of the van.  After that, we could finally sleep.

The next thing was to figure out what to do next!

The house was a complete disaster, even though it was much better then it had been, thanks to the efforts of my older brother and his wife.  A couple of days later, we would find out that the movers would cost $2000 more than we expected, and the fiasco with them just kept on going.

I never want to move again.

Which I know will happen.  Eventually, as we get older, my husband and I will likely need to move into someplace like where his father or my mother live.  Small, barrier free, etc.  We’ve hopefully got many years before we get to that point, though!

A lot has happened since we moved out here.

I think we made the right decision.

The Re-Farmer


Clean Up: spruce grove perimeter, south side

It was such a beautiful day today – we hit 8C today – I couldn’t resist!  I started working on the spruce grove perimeter again.  With the manual labour, the cooler temperatures are just perfect.

Rather than start were I left off last time, I started near the outhouse and garage.  I want to be able to go into the area with my wheelbarrow and tools from here, rather than having to go all the way around where I’d already cleared.  Also, there was a pile of junk at the corner of the garage I wanted to clear out.

It turned out to be a much bigger job than I expected!

In fact, I’ll be splitting this up into three posts to cover it all – including when I had to stop and get one of my daughters to help me get out a trapped kitten!

Continue reading

Clean up: spruce grove, fence line, reaching the gate!

Though we had a trip into town for another medical appointment and some errands (since we were there, anyhow!) in the late morning, I decided I needed to finish clearing the fence line in the spruce grove today.  My siblings and I are working things out in regards to checking on our mother over the next few days, and tomorrow is my turn.  The long range forecasts say it’s going to get colder again, so today was the day, ready or not!

I am happy to say, it is now DONE!  I have cleared the fence line along the spruce grove, up to the driveway gate.  Anything else I am able to do before winter is bonus.  Woohoo!

I took a whole bunch of before and after photos, so I’ll just set up a slide show and let them speak for themselves!

The following photos were taken from the gate side of the fence, facing north.  I started inside the grove, where I left off, but realized I needed to start a new pile for cuttings.  The place to do that was on the south side.  Which required clearing a section of fence so I could toss things over, then working my way north to where I left off last time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is what it looks like from inside the spruce grove, where I left off last time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I managed to save one tiny little spruce tree. 😀  It was in the way, to be honest, but after cutting away so many spruces that were in the fence line itself, I wanted to keep at least this one!  It’s small enough that I could potentially transplant it, in the future.

As you can see in the after photos, I did break out the weed trimmer.  I did the edges of the driveway, first, and even cut away some of the smaller trees on the south side of the driveway, for a bit of visibility.  Next, I followed along the fence line where I worked, as this area had actual tall grass, rather than just undergrowth.

To be honest, though, one of the main reasons I did that was because I got tired of tripping over stumps I’d just cut, but couldn’t see due to the grass!  I will have to see if we have some really bright spray paint, and mark some of them, for safety.

I also tidied up the two strings of Christmas lights, as well as re-attaching the top wire of the fence onto one of the fence posts, where the original U nail was simply, gone.  I used the third string of lights I’d removed previously to replace burnt out and broken bulbs, and switch them all to clear bulbs.  I still intend to replace them with LEDs, but just in case I can’t get to it this year, it is all fixed up for now.

I also discovered that the light strings had plastic clips on them.  While on one of them, the clips were mostly broken off, I don’t know why they weren’t used to clip them to the wire, rather than wrapping them around tree branches.  I also brought out the zip ties for those areas where the clips were broken, and to secure the main power cable, including all along the fence to the garage.

I discovered that more of the fence posts on the south side need replacing than I originally thought.  I leaned on one while reaching to clear a tree at its base, and it broke at ground level!

There were some interesting finds.

Earlier in the year, I discovered there was asparagus growing at the fence line!  I highly doubt this was planted deliberately, and yet, how else did it get there?

There isn’t a lot, but they have their berries now!

I didn’t know they got berries.  Turns out the female plants do.  Interesting!

Also, do you see that rock?

Once I started clearing around it, I realized it’s two rocks.

I’m.  At a loss.  It seems to random, and strange, to find two rocks cemented together like this.

There has got to be a story behind this! 😀

When all was done, I had a large new pile we’ll need to haul away.

At least this time, the pile is in an area that’s easier to get to!

After cleaning up and putting everything away, I came back to address a concern.


It’s a temporary fix.  I cut out a section of one of my husband’s empty distilled water jugs (he uses distilled water for his CPAP humidifier, so we have lots!) and popped it on the post.

Why, you may ask?

This is why.


Once the trees were cleared, what little shelter there was for the outlet was gone.  I don’t know how many years it’s been outside, facing down to make sure no moisture got in. It seemed so very exposed!

So this should keep the precipitation off, until I can come up with something better.  Which will likely not happen until I can work on repairing the fences, so it might be a while!

While I was working on all of this, the girls were working in the West yard.


They had already done part of the yard and put the leaves on the little garden by the Old Kitchen.  This is just some of the piles they rakes up today – there’s more by the fire pit!

I had commandeered the wheel barrows, so they will move the piles onto the garden tomorrow, while I am out.

They also made supper.  The smell of which is making me very hungry right now!

It’s been a very productive day today!  I’m so glad to finally get that fence line done.

Another thing off the list! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: spruce grove fence line, more progress, part two

After working my way through the first section, I realized the stuff I’d cleared away had hidden quite a bit.  So here are some before photos of the next section. (click on them to see them better)

The little spruces were far enough from the fence that I found myself wondering, should I take them out, or should I just prune them clear of the fence?  When I’m in that situation, I try to think ahead 10, 20 or more years.  What will they be like if I leave them?

This was made easy today, by looking at the large spruce that’s already there, even closer to the fence.

What tree, you might be asking?

This one.  In the during and after photos.

Yup, those little spruces were completely hiding a huge spruce, right at the fence.

Also, another little spruce that grew under the fence line and even wound its way back and forth around them.

Reaching that big spruce was my goal for the day.  If all goes well, the next time I work here, I should reach the gate.

In that after photo, note the red Christmas light bulb.  Look for it in these next photos.

The first of these three photos was taken from outside the fence line, where I went to clear some of the trees growing there.  There are many more, closer to the ditch, that need to be cleared, but those will wait for now.

If you look closely, you can see that red Christmas light bulb in the first and third photos.

Did you notice something else in the after photos?  Take another look at the top fence wire.  What you can see of it, anyhow.

I found a temporary fix for the broken wire.


Once I cleared this area of the fence line, I found that when I pulled on the end with the loop in it (on the left of the above photo), it could almost touch the broken end (on the right in the photo, now with its own loop).  I don’t know when I’ll be able to fix it properly, but I didn’t want to leave it broken and hanging, either.  So I went to the garage and grabbed some zip ties, created a new loop on the broken wire end, and joined them by linking 4 zip ties loosely together.  Once they were all linked, I tightened all the zip ties as much as I could, then trimmed the ends with the pruning shears.  Now, the top line that was broken is tighter than the middle line, which got stretched when the tree fell on it, but didn’t break.  🙂

While making my way to the garage, I found this.


Another bench, made out of logs with a board across the top.  I’ve gone through here a few times, but had to practically step on it before I saw it!  I tried to pick it up, to see if it was usable, but it is so rotten, it started to fall apart, so I left it for now.  It will be cleared out when we get to taking out all the deadwood and continuing to clean up the spruce grove, next year.  Though on this end, it’s not really a spruce grove any more.  Closer to the garage, and the south fence line, it’s more poplar, elms and oak.  The elms and oak are in rows, so those were planted deliberately.  The poplar looks to have sown itself.  There are even what might be some apple trees in here.

Once I’ve cleared the East fence line to the gate, I will work my way down the south fence line, along the driveway, just enough to clear it.  There are poplars growing right at the wires, and while the south fence line has good posts, just like the East line does, many of them are falling over.   Especially right next to the garage.  It is along this fence line that the power cord from the garage runs.  We might not get to straightening them out this year, but if there’s going to be electrical cord supported by this fence, I want it to be able to stay upright!

We shall see how far along there we will be able to get, before the weather turns.

Looking ahead to the future, I hope to have a number of seating areas scattered about – with seats made of materials that won’t rot or degrade as quickly as the wooden benches I’ve been finding.  The goal is to clear this area enough to give it a park-like feel, plus I want to be able to see through the trees from the house to the driveway.  At the same time, I do want to leave some of the undergrowth, too.  Dogwood.  Wild roses.  False spirea. Junipers.  I look forward to planting shade loving plants and flowers in areas where they can naturalize, and ground cover that can be walked on.  Over time, I want this yard, including the spruce and maple groves, to be a sanctuary, not only for us humans, but to shelter some of the native wildlife, and to provide food and shelter for native pollinators as well.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: spruce grove fence line, part 2

I’ve got some before photos, and some taken during the clean up.  By this point, I had pretty much stopped with the pruning shears, except to clear things that were in the way.

These three before pictures were taken in an area just before there a tree had fallen on the fence.  I wanted to at least clear that area, as my goal for the day.

One thing that was noticeable is that, over the years, there was some maintenance done around here.  Despite the weird tops of some of the fence posts, they are all good posts, and still straight.  There is a bit of wiggle on them, but that could be attributed to how dry it has been.  The fence wire itself would also have been good, if trees hadn’t fallen on it!


I didn’t want to go too far into the grove, but this tree top had to go.  It was in the way of clearing things out.  The stump of the tree can be seen where I’d cleared previously, near the open, mossy area.

I also went outside the fence to move away the top of the tree that fell on the fence.


This is what my older brother had cut, to get it off the fence itself, shortly after we moved out here.  For now, I’m just leaving this here.  It will need to be cut down a bit before being hauled away, due to its size.


Here’s where it had fallen on the fence.  I took a closer look at that ant hill, and there’s no sign of ants left in it.  It has been abandoned.  Which is good, because I had to cut some small trees out of it!

Then I made some discoveries.


In the next section of fence, I found the end of a string of Christmas lights.

Notice the wire it is wrapped around.  If you follow it up, you can see it end in a loop.

In this next photo, you can see where it should be.


This is where two lengths of barbed wire were joined together, but when the tree fell on the fence, on end broke off.

Once the fence line is clear, I will be repairing this.  I even found a tool for tightening fence wire that I can use; one of the few useful things that didn’t disappear while this place was empty!

I started unwinding the Christmas lights and found…


… the fallen tree had also unplugged the string of lights.


This is where it had been plugged into.  This string of lights reaches to the outlet box and still works.  I will leave it for now.  Eventually, I want to replace them with LED lights.

After this, it was time to climb back through the fence and start clearing on the inside, which will be in my next post. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: spruce grove fence line, part 1

I was able to get back to working on the fence line of the spruce grove today.  I got quite a bit of progress, so I’m splitting the before and after photos into several posts.

I also came back to some updates about my mother, and am happy to hear her surgery went well and she is recovering quite nicely.  She is in good hands, too. 🙂

Here is the progress I got done in the first section.  For these pictures, I propped my phone up on a fence post near where I left off last time.

To the right of the fence line, I’d already done some work clearing things around the trees, but not so much the fence itself.

I decided to clear the trees growing on the road side of the fence.  One advantage of having barbed wire fence.  It’s easy to get through.  Handy for work like this, but not very secure.

I discovered something while clearing the trees on the road side of the fence.

Someone had tried to do this before.


Many of the saplings were like this; new growth out of the remains of an older little stump.  None of the stumps were cut, though.  From the jagged edges, I wonder if someone just broke them?

The pile at the bottom of the tree in the after photo is what I tossed over the fence while clearing on the road side.

Almost all of this was done using pruning sheers.  Which is much more time consuming! A lot of what I was clearing was wild roses, and my goodness, they are a pain!  Literally!  Those skinny little thorns like to slide right through the rubber palms of my gloves.  Then, when I try to toss them onto the pile, they stick to the gloves, instead.

I used the extended pruning saw to take down some of the low hanging dead branches as well, though I am not doing this as thoroughly as I did previously.  I can come back to do the rest later.  I just want to focus on getting that fence clear as quickly as I can, while the weather is good.

Now to process the next set of pictures. 😀

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: Spruce grove perimeter, reaching the fence!

It’s been a while, but today I was able to continue working on the perimeter of the spruce grove.  I started off at the little maple I had stopped at, last time, and made it to the fence line. 😀

The last time I went through the area, looking ahead to what needed to be done, it was still green.  The leaves are completely yellow, now!

Here are the before and after pictures. (click on the images to see them better)

The cluster of trees is made of up 3 poplars and 2 spruces.  One of the poplars has lost its top, and I’m pretty sure that’s what’s lying on the ground near the little dead spruces I took out.  There is some dogwood at the bottom of this group of trees that I cleaned up a bit, but otherwise left to grow.  It’s one of those things that will spread quite handily, given the opportunity.

The next section is an open, mossy area.  I’ve been using it to turn around with the riding mower.

Most of the clean up here involved pruning shears instead of saws.

Once that was done, I was at the fence line and had to make some decisions.  How far to the north did I want to go?

In the end, I decided I needed to at least clear out a dead tree that had fallen on the fence, so I could access it for repair.

Though the dead tree was a big poplar, the remains of two other trees had also fallen on it.

The poplar itself was growing on the outside of the fence line.  There are a few larger trees on the outside that I will have to leave, but I will be taking out any smaller trees on that side, as soon as I am able.  I’m not sure about the bylaws in regards to municipal land along the roads, as far as who is responsible for keeping it clear, but I don’t want it to become overgrown with trees like it has on the other side of our gate.

I didn’t do much more in this area, as I want to focus in the other direction, so this section is unfinished.  There are a couple of trees that will be taken out, because they are too close to the fence line.  Otherwise, it’s mostly undergrowth that will need clearing and cleaning.  There seems to be some juniper in there that I intend to leave.

Moving southward, now.

There are some pretty massive spruces here!  There isn’t really a lot that needs doing with the trees themselves; a few low hanging branches and dead branches to clear out.  I could see that, at some point – long ago – someone had gone through and cleared the lower branches, so they were already pretty good.  Again, I spent more time with the pruning shears!  There are quite a few poplar on the outside of the fence that I will have to go back to, later.

If you look in the before picture, at the big spruce to the left of centre, you can almost see a potential problem.  The top of this tree is broken off, and its top is still there, hanging upside down.  I have no idea how long it’s been like this, but at some point, it’s going to fall.  Ideally, we’d get it down before it falls on its own and potentially damages something, but for now, it will have to wait.

It’s starting to open up quite nicely.

Though my priority is clearing the fence line, so it can be accessed and repaired as needed, I might have to clear out some of the dead wood further into the grove.  There is a large spruce that has come down in the area that I am leaving for next year, but I might have to cut away at least some of the branches, just so I can drag out some of the stuff I know I will be dealing with, further down.

And that is my progress for today!  It might be another few days before I can work on it again, so I’m glad I was able to at least get this little corner done.

The Re-Farmer