Fall to do list

Spring and fall are important seasons on the farm. We’re either working to get things going or working to wrap things up. And all the time I feel like there’s a deadline.

In the fall the deadline is very real because we never know when the weather is going to turn and winter is going to be here. I realize we’re only in the first week of October, and it’s barely begun to feel like fall. It’s not really fair to start talking about winter already, but I already feel like I need to get moving. I have approximately three months until winter officially hits. And who knows how long until freezing temperatures and snow arrive.

Here’s what I’d like to accomplish this fall:

1. Clean out the vegetable garden

Pulling out the plants, a final weeding, lots of pruning, maybe some cover crops or mulch–there’s lots to do here.

2. Remove window screens

I didn’t get around to this last fall, and as a result our windows never got cleaned this spring, and they’re pretty dirty. Pulling the screens off will set me up for next spring.

Patched window screen

3. Wash dining room and living room windows

See #2 above. I can’t wait til spring on these two big windows. While we still have running water outside, I will clean these two windows.

4. Put away the birdbath and put out the feeder

The bird feeder is easy now that I have a sleeve in the ground that the stake slips into. However, the bird bath is pretty heavy and needs assistance from both Matt and Wiley.

Blue jay at the birdfeeder

5. Bush hog the meadow, septic and pond shore one more time

I will also likely light the big pile of brush down at the pond on fire while I’m driving around on the tractor.

6. Clean gutters

Matt’s job. Will likely be done several times this fall.

Cleaning gutters with a leaf blower

7. Switch out the mudroom mats

Covering our whole mudroom floor in my large DIY cocoa fibre mat helps to deal with the wet and snow that might come in on our boots.

8. Sweep the chimney

I’m ashamed to say that after three seasons of having a working fireplace, I have never cleaned the chimney. It’s passed time for this chore.

Fireplace screen

9. Vacuum my car

Between Baxter and the grit of a country property, my car desperately needs a cleaning. Winter will only make things worse, so if I can start off relatively clean, I’ll feel better about myself.

10. Service the tractor

Taking off the mower, greasing all the fittings, changing the oil will ensure that we’re all set for whatever comes this winter.

Changing the oiil on our tractor

11. Build a new coffee table.

This has been on my home goals list for awhile, and it’s time to do it. Ideally, the weather holds long enough that I can do some of the work outside.

12. Pick up the lumber pile beside the silo

Last year we went all summer with a big pile of lumber beside the silo. This year, we’ve done it again. Although not quite so big this time around. Hopefully we can move it into the barn without injury this year.

13. Regrade back and side of house

I didn’t get a load of topsoil for my birthday, but I’m not giving up on this one yet.

Back of the house

Oooh. Unlucky 13. I feel like I should find one more task to even it out. I’m a bit surprised there are only 13 things knocking around in my brain. Thinking about fall felt much more overwhelming than that. Sometimes that’s the beauty of writing down a to-do list. It makes the tasks seem more manageable.

Hopefully, that’s the case with this list.

What’s on your fall to-do list?


How to change a tractor tire on a Kioti CS2410

Baxter with the flat tractor tire

One of the issues we’ve run into with our little Kioti CS2410 tractor, Wiley, is his front tires not holding air.

The tires are just rubber tires on metal rims. No tubes. So if they’re underinflated or hit something, we’ve found that the seal between the tire and the rim can start to leak.

We added a tube to the front right tire back in our first winter here. The left front tire we left mostly alone, just checking it and reinflating it regularly.

But after Wiley got stuck at the start of the month, the front left tire wouldn’t hold air at all.

Flat tire on a Kioti CS2410

So we popped it off the tractor, took it to the tractor dealership and asked them to put in a tube.

Removing a tire from a Kioti CS2410 is relatively straightforward.

First, with the tire and the tractor still on the ground, we loosened the nuts. Keeping the tractor on the ground ensures that your tire won’t spin while you’re trying to undo the (often very tight) nuts.

How to change a tire on a Kioti CS2410

We found a normal tire iron was too big for the nuts. Instead, we used our socket wrench with a 5/8 socket.

5/8 socket

Once all five nuts were loose, we raised the tractor up with a jack under the front axle. (If you’re on uneven ground like we are, it’s smart to stabilize your jack by putting it on a board).

How to change a tire on a Kioti CS2410

Then we unscrewed the nuts the rest of the way and lifted off the tire. Super easy.

How to change a tire on a Kioti CS2410

Wiley did a balancing act for a few days (we stuck some wood under the axle so we weren’t relying solely on the jack) while the tire was at the repair shop.

How to change a tire on a Kioti CS2410

Once we got our newly tubed tire back, attaching it to the tractor was pretty straightforward.

How to change a tire on a Kioti CS2410

The hardest part was getting the holes perfectly lined up so that the nuts would screw in straight. It was helpful to have two people, one to hold the tire and the other to handle the nuts.

Once we had the nuts finger tight, we lowered the tractor back down onto all four wheels and removed the jack. Then Matt tightened the nuts with the socket again. Like with any tire, follow a star pattern when you’re moving from nut to nut, rather than going around in a circle.

How to change a tire on a Kioti CS2410

And that was it. Then Wiley got to go for a little run on his new wheels.

How to change a tire on a Kioti CS2410

I’ve learned that a tractor–even a small one like Wiley–is indispensable on a farm–even when we’re not farming. We’re very happy to have him back in working order and to not have to worry about flat tires any more.

Harvest report from Illinois

You saw on Monday that our last hay harvest of this year happened on the weekend. In Illinois, harvest is also underway, although there’s some variation in the crops. Sarah is here today to share a crop report.

Harvest 2017 is officially underway. I say “officially” but that just means that I saw my first combine this week.

If you remember back to some of my spring posts, we had an extremely wet season.

Of course it affected my planting but more importantly it affected the farmers’ planting. Most farmers either had to wait to plant, planted then had to re-plant, or some were just lucky enough that the first planting made it.

With these three scenarios, I find it fascinating that fields that are usually all ready to harvest about the same time are now looking completely different.

I took pictures on my way home one night of different fields of soybeans all in different stages of harvest.

Not at all ready to harvest:

Starting to show signs of the foliage dying:

And almost ready:

The corn is in similar stages:

None of these examples are from the fields that Steve farms. He says that he is about 2 weeks away from cutting his first beans. I think this is going to be a long drawn-out harvest season.

How are crops doing in your area? Have you seen any signs of harvest approaching?

It seems like this has been a good season for hay in our area. The wet weather has meant it just keeps on growing. The farm across the road had at least three cuts, I think. You have me curious about beans and corn, Sarah. I’m going to have to find a field and take a look.

Get to the choppa

Ahhh, a peaceful weekend morning in the country. The bugs buzzing and the birds chirping. The hum of a tractor in the distance. The sound of gates creaking and horses neighing at the farm across the road. The pop of gunshots and whir of a helicopter. The… um, what was that?

No, the farm has not become a war zone. But we did have an interesting invasion on Saturday when a helicopter landed in the big field.

Hay wagon

Honestly, I wasn’t paying much attention. There’s a shooting range a few kilometres down the road, so gunshots are something that we hear fairly regularly. They’re just background noise to me now.

I definitely heard the helicopter. But again, I wasn’t concerned because there have appeared to be helicopter lessons happening over the farm throughout the summer. They fly low and they fly around and round. It’s noisy and odd, but not novel anymore.

However, a helicopter landing on our property is novel, and apparently that’s what happened.

Matt, who was out for a walk with Baxter, had seen the helicopter. However, he wasn’t expecting to see it touch down in our field. Matt and Bax were on the road, some distance from the field, talking with a police offer who had pulled over when he saw the helicopter flying erratically.

The helicopter only touched down for a few minutes, so Matt–and the cop–didn’t have a chance to find out what was happening. And I didn’t get a chance for a picture.

The cop’s comment was, “If it crashes on that side of the road, it’s the city’s problem. If it’s on this side it’s our problem.”

Ummm… if it crashes, it’s a problem period. If it crashes on our farm, that’s our problem. Not helpful input, Mr. OPP.

After an apparently safe takeoff, the police officer went on his way, and Matt and Bax returned for breakfast. Later in the day, Matt commemorated the occasion by finding Predator on TV–hence the title of this post, Matt’s favourite line from that movie.

The rest of the weekend our fields were pretty much back to normal.

Our last hay was baled, so tractors and hay wagons replaced the helicopter. The closest we got to a helicopter was this spinning attachment on the back of the tractor as our farmer was preparing the hay for baling.


Baling hay

Did anything unusual happen at your house this weekend?


Writing at the dining room table

I’m writing this post on Tuesday afternoon, sitting at my dining room table staring out the big window at the garden and the fields beyond.

This is not where I’m usually found on Tuesday afternoons. Especially not the Tuesday after Labour Day when everyone is back to work, back to school, back to routine.

As of the beginning of September, I have a new routine. One that revolves around the farm, family and freelance writing.

I’ve taken a leave from my job and am going to see what I can make on my own. I’ve thought about doing this for awhile, and I’m excited, nervous and grateful to be able to now take this step.

I’m doing communications consulting, editing and, of course, writing. If you need any of these services, I’d love to hear from you. My business is called 129 Communications (for obvious reasons).

Labour Day labours

Happy Labour Day everyone.

Like Studio McGee said on Instagram the other day, I’m “really feeling the whole rest from your labours thing this weekend.”

Of course, we tend to mix in a bit of labour around here even when we’re having a mostly relaxing weekend–a three day weekend too. But sometimes the labour doesn’t go as planned.

Tipped tractor

Tipped tractor

Spinning tractor wheel

Towing the tractor with the car

Tractor behind the car

Note the dog, who is very unconcerned with his chances of getting smushed by either a car or a tractor or whipped by a snapping chain. I’m glad he trusts us to keep him safe, but dude could have a bit better sense of self-preservation.

Note as well the husband hiding behind the front end loader.

And a final note that this is all my fault. I hadn’t mowed the gully with the push mower as well as I usually do. There was an actual thought of, “I wonder whether Matt can get down here with Wiley.”

Turns out he can, but he can’t get out, at least not when the ground is soft and a little wet.

What are you doing this Labour Day?

End of summer sunrise

Late august sunrise over the fields

Our morning walks have been slowly getting darker and darker. I love summer, so I’m sad to see the days shortening. But I do enjoy seeing the sun rise over the fields rather than heading out when it’s already up. The change of season is coming.

How are you starting your days as the summer winds down? Is anyone else a bit sad that summer’s coming to an end?

Summer lull

Little jalapeno peppers growing in the vegetable garden

Vegetables are slowly growing in the garden. Some of the hay fields have been cut for the second time. Lilies are blooming in the flowerbeds.

Summer goes on at the farm, and I’m enjoying it.

I’m going to take a week off from the blog to savour some more of my favourite season. I’ll be back next week.

Odds & sods

Ralph and Baxter relaxing on the driveway

Today is Civic Holiday here, so Ralph, Baxter, Matt and I are doing our civic duty and taking it easy. In that vein, I’m keeping it simple today with an odds and sods post.

  • The holiday Monday starts a week off work for me, so I’m looking forward to lots of time around the farm, a new writing gig, catching up with a few friends, and a bit of taking it easy. (But first I have a 17-year-old who’s excited to learn how to drive the tractor, so that means an extra pair of hands and a day of free labour for me. Yay!)
  • Later this week we’re headed into the big city to see the Toronto Blue Jays play the Yankees. The Jays’ season thus far has caused Matt hours of angst. Even if this week’s game doesn’t tilt our way, he’s excited to see the Yankees live for the first time.
  • Matt brought home our first peaches of the season the other day. They are so good. My favourite so far is sliced, tossed in a frying pan for a few minutes with maple syrup and then poured over waffles–a perfect vacation breakfast. I love fresh summer produce. Next on the menu, fresh sweet corn,
  • Thanks to humidity, we had a couple of big rainstorms last week. As in tree branches down in the wind and driveway washed out due to who knows how much rain in just a few minutes. Fortunately, damage wasn’t too severe and our sump pump worked the way it’s supposed to.
  • Two new-ish to me blogs are The Grit and Polish and Chris Loves Julia. I really enjoy their style–both writing and home. They both also welcomed new baby girls to their families over the last couple of weeks.
  • Once upon a time a long long time ago, Danica wrote a guest post for me. She and her husband are still working hard on their Hillside Casa. They had a crazy productive week last week–and still have a just plain crazy to-do list for the next two months. What they’ve accomplished is super impressive and they’re a great example of what DIYers can do.

Happy August everyone.