How to fight gypsy moths

Gypsy moths are an invasive species that is very destructive to trees. Caterpillars “feed gregariously.” If there are enough caterpillars, they may eat all of the leaves off a tree. “Severe defoliation can reduce tree growth and predispose trees to attack from other insects and diseases.” (Source)

We prize our trees here at the farm, and we’ve had some caterpillar damage the last few years. So last week, Ellie and I spent a morning scraping gypsy moth eggs off our trees.

Child standing on a ladder scraping gypsy moth eggs off a tree

I had noticed some pale patches on various trees and after a close look assumed they were egg deposits of some kind. Then, articles in a couple of magazines confirmed they were from gypsy moths. A very detailed article in our community newsletter advised scraping them into a bucket of hot water mixed with bleach. And to do it by May before the caterpillars hatched.

We were already into the first week of May, so Ellie and I got busy right away. We carefully examined our trees and scraped off any masses we found. A few had already hatched, though the caterpillars were still small and hadn’t crawled away yet. I was very glad to remove them before they moved onto the trees.

Gypsy moth egg mass with newly hatched caterpillars
Gypsy moth egg masses on a maple tree

We used a ladder to get as high as we could. We were careful to scrape as many of the eggs off as possible and catch them in the bucket, rather than letting them fall to the ground.

Gypsy moth egg masses and caterpillars in a bucket of water

We found the eggs on many of our maple trees. I’m sure there are a few we missed, and some that were out of reach. I’m hoping that we removed enough to prevent the trees from being severely damaged.

Our community newsletter also recommended wrapping sticky tape around the bottom of the trees to catch the caterpillars, so I’m planning on doing that as well.

The article concluded, “The more people that are aware and actively working to reduce gypsy moth populations, the better overall control we will have over this invasive pest.” I hope that this post encourages you to check your property for signs of gypsy moths.

Do you have any pests on your property? Are gypsy moths a problem in your area?

Quest for weed control in the vegetable garden

Our vegetable garden has been more of a miss than a hit the last few years, but I’m trying to get back in the game this year.

My first step has been prep. Years of neglect mean weeds are well-established throughout the garden. I’m not prepared to tackle the whole garden, but I’m going to try to reclaim a few areas. Rather than dig up all the weeds or till them under, I’m trying to suffocate them with mulch.

I first wrote about deep mulch gardening back in 2016. So this has been on my mind for a while.

I picked one quadrant (the others will not be planted and will be mowed or tarped), and laid down a whole bunch of cardboard.

We’ve had two bales of hay sitting beside the garden for a couple of years. I had intended to use them for mulch, but then gardening didn’t happen for a while. When the excavator was here a few weeks ago for the garage, I had him throw the bales over the fence (they had gotten too squishy for me to pick up with our tractor).

Ellie and I broke up the bales and spread the hay in a deep layer over all of the cardboard.

Between the raspberry rows, I laid more cardboard and then layers of bark that Matt’s Dad picked up when he was cleaning up some dead trees in the fenceline between the fields. They’re like really big woodchips.

It’s going to take a lot of work to get the garden back. If I’m going to have any success, I have to figure out a way to manage at least some of the weeds, and mulch is this year’s experiment. I feel like I’m already behind for this year, but I’m trying to remind myself that gardening is a multi-year undertaking.

The asparagus and rhubarb are up, though fluctuating temperatures seem to have slowed them down over the last couple of weeks (and weeds may be choking them). The grapes are alive, and I really need to figure out how I’m supposed to prune them. The raspberries look happy, including some new canes I took from Matt’s Dad last fall.

I have to dig out the weeds around the raspberries, asparagus, grapes and rhubarb. Then I’m going to try to put down more cardboard and more mulch wherever I can.

In the mulched quadrant, I’m going to plant annuals. What ones, I’m not exactly sure yet. I’m also not sure how I’m going to plant in the mulch. I may try to add soil and/or compost on top of the hay to make a raised row garden, or I may just scrape the hay back, punch through the cardboard and plant in the soil underneath.

There’s still lots to figure out, and we’re a looong way from having a thriving vegetable garden (unless you’re a weed… or a bee wearing pollen pants).

But it does feel good to be back in the dirt. And I’m glad to be trying out some of the techniques I’ve read about and thought about for a long time.

Are you planting a vegetable garden this year? Any tips for dealing with weeds? Or reclaiming a neglected garden?

Odds & sods

When we first moved to the farm, a row of forsythia bushes beside the driveshed were covered in blooms at the beginning of April. Since then, I’ve measured the progress of spring by the forsythia.

The forsythia flowers arrived last week–the most flowers we’ve had in years. Unfortunately, right after they arrived, snow returned. So I’m not sure that forsythia is my best measure of spring this year.

Here are some other things that caught my attention this month.

Have house prices gone crazy where you are too? Farmhouse sells for $1,115,000 over asking

I haven’t been able to listen to music since before Matt died. The other week I found this song. I still cry, but I love it.

Mesmerizing

I went waaaay back in my recipe archives to make this pasta last week, and it was so good. (I omitted the pepper and added tomatoes, artichokes and spinach to up the veggie quotient).

Mudroom inspiration for coloured cabinets and large-scale rough stone tiles.

Sources: Hali MacDonald in House & Home (left), Jeffrey Dungan (right)

We’re finishing off April by picking the mudroom tile and paying taxes (worse than snow in the spring). We have a bunch of outdoor projects underway here, so I’m hoping that warm, sunny days return soon.

How was April for you? What signs of spring have you been seeing? Are you cooking any retro recipes?

Garage update

Garage under construction

Soooo much progress was made on the garage last week. In fact, we have an actual garage now.

There’s more work to be done, of course. But it looks like a garage rather than a pool. In fact, Ellie and I drove the car in over the weekend.

We are 17 days into construction.

The exterior walls are all framed. The walls turned out to be our first hiccup because our contractor wasn’t happy with how the bottom plate of the existing walls was positioned in relation to the pool deck.

It looks like the plate had been set in place and then the concrete of the pool deck had been poured up against the wood. He wanted the plate higher up, so he reverse engineered footings all the way around the garage.

Wall with incorrectly installed bottom plate

He braced the ceiling, so that the roof didn’t fall down. Then cut out the original plate and about 6 inches off the studs. Then he put in a new (floating) bottom plate, squeezed forms in underneath and poured new footings.

Pouring footings under existing wall

This has been our biggest (not so big) surprise so far, so not tragic.

For the side wall on the new addition, he decided to reuse the existing wall (which I’m grateful for since lumber is so expen$ive these days). After a lot of figuring, bracing and some extra help, they hopped the wall (all 20 feet long with the windows still in place) out 10 feet.

Extending the garage
Reusing an existing wall when framing the garage

I love construction, so it’s neat to see the problem-solving, planning and building process up close.

The doors are all framed in as well. Seeing the garage openings made it feel much more real. It was also an opportunity to validate some of my planning. I am really happy with the dimensions and position (there’s a good amount of space to tuck recycling boxes along the side and still get out of the car).

They also mapped out the mudroom for me, so I could check the height of the floor, location of the doors and size of the landing. I really appreciate how conscientious and inclusive they are being.

And finally, FINALLY we have no pool. The excavator returned last Wednesday and gravel trucks started showing up a few minutes later. The excavator dumped bucketfuls of gravel into the pool and our contractor compacted it. It took most of the day, but by 5pm the pool was full.

Gravel pile to fill the pool
Filling an indoor pool with gravel
Filling the pool with gravel

The excavator returned the next day to finish backfilling all of the foundation, lay the driveway and take care of a bunch of other jobs that I had. Low spots were filled in, bumpy spots were leveled, rocks were moved, stumps were extracted. Soooo many things were crossed off my wishlist.

Though it felt like an expensive two days, having the excavator, two machines, our contracting crew and about 15 truckloads (250 tonnes) of gravel.

Backhoe and skid steer working on the garage construction
Truck dumping gravel

Ontario is under a whole bunch of new restrictions due to a huge wave of COVID infections, but residential construction that is already in progress is allowed to continue. So next on the agenda is framing the roof of the extension and the mudroom and pouring the garage floor.

Anyone else in the middle of a construction project (big or small)? Have you had any expensive days recently? Anyone else crossing things off your to-do list that have been on there for a long time?

Picking a mudroom floor

Last week I was talking about the exterior of the garage. Today I’m moving inside to talk about the mudroom. Specifically the floor.

In my original plans, we were going to do a concrete floor. I liked the idea of colouring and stamping it to look like tile. But I liked that it would be one solid surface with no grout to clean.

Our contractor and I both called a bunch of concrete installers, and we couldn’t find anyone to do the mudroom floor. The space is too small, and there would be extra charges for a partial load of concrete. Heating the floor wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I thought.

Change of plans. We’re going with tile, grey grout and a really, really, really good sealer.

Now I have to pick a tile.

My mudroom plan is to plank the walls and ceiling. The walls will be painted a light greige, taupe colour. Fairly neutral. Not white. Hide dirt.

Source: Sarah Richardson

The ceiling will be wood.

Source: Style at Home

So what do we do with the floor?

Let’s start with the two floors above.

The first mudroom by Sarah Richardson appeals to me the most. The floor is light, but close to the colour of dirt. I’d go with a grey grout over the white because… dirt. The tile looks a bit peachy in the picture, but I like the idea of something more brown-toned rather than grey. I’m worried grey tile might clash with the taupe walls. The tiles are a mix of sizes and the rough edges feel rustic.

In the second photo, we see slate, a common choice for mudrooms. For me, it feels a bit dark. Our mudroom will have a window in the door and that is the only natural light that will come into the room.

The other common material choice is brick. It feels a bit trendy these days, though some would say it’s timeless. It’s definitely rustic and durable. For me, I feel like the brick would start to feel too busy. There would be a lot of grout lines and tones of red. I’ve learned that I get tired of strong colours and patterns eventually. And I don’t want to get tired of this floor. Though a non-red brick might be an option.

Source: Brooks & Falotico

Ellie and I went tile shopping a few weeks ago, but nothing jumped out at me. (Unprompted, she chose red brick.)

What would you do? What would you want for a mudroom floor?

Garage exterior plans

Foundations are in for the garage and mudroom. I’m hoping everything will be backfilled this week–and maybe the pool finally filled as well.

I’m trying to do my part of keeping the renovation moving by making decisions about what I want.

After thinking about and planning for this renovation for so long, I thought I knew exactly what I’d choose. But now that it’s real, I’m finding out that sometimes my mental picture isn’t as clear as I thought it was.

I’d appreciate your input on a couple of things.

Garage doors

A carriage door style feels appropriate for a farm. These doors have fake handles and hinges that make them look like old-fashioned swinging doors.

However, the carriage doors I like the most are all overlay doors. In an overlay, the panels or strips are applied by hand. This translates to more expensive. As well, there are sometimes issues with getting the overlays to line up between each section of the garage door.

I can get the carriage door look (hinges and handles) in a pressed door. In this profile, the design is pressed into the steel and there are no applied pieces. However, the profiles that I like the best (the two-panel or Zed above) are not available. I’d go with a simple shaker style panel to get as close as possible.

I’ve spent a lot of time gawking at garage doors, trying to figure out if I dislike the pressed profiles enough to go for an overlay door.

What would you do?

Lighting

Lighting is still a while away, but wiring will happen soon. So I’m thinking about how many lights we need and what they should look like. We could have as many as six lights (if we stretch all the way over to the living room patio door) or we could go with three, or somewhere in between.

They could all be the same, or we could switch up the style.

I’m leaning toward a lantern style light on either side of the garage. This graphic from Farmhouse Facelift shows two options that appeal to me: a traditional lantern and rustic wood design that I haven’t seen before.

Source: Farmhouse Facelift

I’m also considering goose neck barn style lights (though their trendiness makes me want to avoid them). We drive past a house that has used them beside the garage doors, rather than above (which we won’t have room for).

How many lights and what style would you do?

Odds & sods

March felt very full. The garage reno kicked off, spring arrived (with all of its assorted projects and adrenaline), sap was running, syrup was boiling, taxes were prepped, we spent nearly 100 hours outside (94 so far and three days to go), and daily life continued.

We also marked Matt’s birthday. I’ve made him a birthday cake for 23 years in a row, and I’m not ready to give it up. Plus, Ellie loves to bake and a cake is a way for her to connect with her Daddy. By her decree, his cake was exactly the same as hers from her birthday last month.

I am starting March’s round-up with an excerpt from a beautiful book that I read this month. It reminded me to find space in our full days, in my full mind, in our full life:

“I am my silence. I am not the busyness of my thoughts or the daily rhythm of my actions. I am not the stuff that constitutes my world… I take a little time each day to sit in silence so that I can move outward in balance into the great clamour of living.”

Embers by Richard Wagamese

Here are some other links that have given me space, helped me deal with our world and find balance with the clamour of living:

Simple formula for bystander intervention

A better measure of success

I have mudrooms on my mind. Sarah Richardson does too.

Farmhouse Facelift It’s nice to see farms and functional makeovers on HGTV. Plus the hosts were a few years behind me in school.

Rethinking kindergarten readiness

I hope that you are doing well and have had a good month. We are looking ahead to a full Easter weekend (accompanied by three birthdays). There will be some hikes, egg hunts, traditional meals, new menus, candy, memories and fun.

Has March been full for you? How do you find space in your life? Do you make time to sit in silence?

Garage construction has begun

Today is day four of garage construction. I am so excited to have this project underway. And our contractors have made so much progress already.

All of the brick is off the exterior of the pool, the deck inside has been demoed, the pool floor has been drilled for drainage, the new foundation has been excavated (without hitting the geothermal), we passed our first inspection, and footings have been poured. The patio around the outside of the pool and off the living room has been taken out. One tree has been taken down and cut up for firewood (half taken down by the excavator and the other half taken down by Matt’s Dad, who also did all the cutting up). Our pile of other firewood has been moved.

Two tractors (one a toy) in front of a pile of firewood
Child walking on dirt while a tractor digs in the background
Child standing on top of a pile of dirt
Child watching a cement truck pour cement

Next up is building the foundation for the garage extension and the mudroom dividing wall.

I ended up turning over the remaining demo to our contractors. I had really wanted to do a lot of the work myself. Demo is a relatively easy way for me to be involved, which is part of the fun for me. Plus it would save the contractors a bit of time.

But the deck turned out to be a beast. I took the railing off, then spent an hour and a half on the deck itself. I got four boards off and they all split.

Indoor pool mid demolition

I hadn’t taken any of the brick off the outside when the contractor said, “I can start next week.” He also said, “Scaffolding, jack hammers, three guys.” And I said, “You can do it.”

Removing the brick from a house

I am so glad I did. They were so quick. But they were also careful.

I want to use the lumber from the deck for Ellie’s playground expansion. And I want to save the brick for some future exterior work I have planned.

They took everything apart carefully. They stacked the lumber so I could take the nails out, and then moved it to the barn for me. They piled the bricks on skids and then tucked them behind the barn. Being able to reuse so much is so helpful.

Indoor pool mid demoltion
House with brick partially removed

And we’re already at the putting things back together stage. Though it’s going to take a while before it’s all back together. I’ll be sharing more as construction progresses.

Have you started any spring reno projects at your house? Do you have any renovation plans for this year? What jobs do you take on yourself versus hiring out? Have you ever reused lumber or other materials?

A sweet family tradition

On a whim, I decided to tap our trees a few weeks ago. It turned out to be exactly the right time. Just a few days later, the sap started to run.

Making syrup was something Matt liked to do. I didn’t tap trees last spring, but this year I decided I wanted to share the experience with Ellie.

We also need to replenish our stash. Matt started making Ellie a waffle in the morning, and it’s still her breakfast of choice.

Ellie has been in on every part of syrup making so far. Drilling the trees, collecting the sap, eating the sap right from the tree.

As I strain the sap, she inspects the cloth for dirt. Then as it’s boiling in the pot, she calls, “Use the ‘mometer!” (Our first batch of syrup burnt when we were distracted watching Frozen.)

She holds the strainer as I pour the finished syrup into jars and then swipes her finger around the bottom of the pan to lick up the sweet drips left behind.

Syrup making became a fun tradition for Matt and me, and I’m having more fun carrying this on with Ellie.

Do you have any spring traditions in your family? What family traditions are you sharing with your kids?

We’re building a garage

There was one project that I didn’t share in my Home Goals post back in January. Of course, it was the biggest one. A garage!

(I am so excited.)

At the start of the year, we were in the plans and permit application stage, and I didn’t want to share anything until everything was approved and confirmed.

We have received our permits, demo is underway and construction will hopefully begin later this month.

So let’s talk about the garage.

Here is our current floorplan.

Current floorplan

And here is my (not at all to scale) floorplan of what’s going to happen.

The indoor pool will be filled in (yay to no more pool!). The west wall (top wall in this floorplan) will be pushed out 10 feet. A wall will be built to make a mudroom.

From the outside, it will look something like this.

I want to do as much demo myself as possible before our contractor arrives. It will save us a bit of money, and it’s fun to be involved in this project.

I started taking apart the pool in February. The first thing to go? That terrible indoor-outdoor carpeting coating the lower half of the walls.

Matt in the indoor pool

Yes, I will continue to share this photo as much as possible.

For the most part, the room has come apart fairly easily. The awkward thing is working around the pool. I feel very high when I’m up on a ladder with this deep gaping hole behind me. Matt’s Dad helped remove the siding above the windows. I only took down part of the ceiling, as the sections over the pool felt too high. I’m in the middle of taking down the deck off the kitchen. Hopefully I finish that off this week, and then the inside demo is done.

Nine years ago during our home inspection

Outside, I want to strip the brick and pick up patio slabs. The brick will be saved for future projects, and the garage will get new board and batten siding. But we need a bit more snow to melt before outside demo–or construction–can begin.

The garage has always been top on my reno list. Being able to load or unload the car without worrying about the weather. No scraping snow or frost off the car. Taking out the recycling without walking across the driveway to the driveshed. A mudroom with heat so that our boots aren’t freezing. So many good things are coming our way.

As long as I’ve been thinking about this project, now it’s time to make some decisions. I’ll be sharing some of those in upcoming posts and asking for your input.

And I’ll be sharing updates as construction begins.

Matt and I were saving for this project when Ellie was born. Our plan was to build the garage last year, but I decided to wait another year. I’m glad to be finally going ahead and working to realize our vision.