Tiptoeing into the vegetable garden

Raspberry canes

I’ve been avoiding the vegetable garden. Not out of a lack of enthusiasm. I want to be in the garden. But I’m trying to be strategic about where I spend my time right now. I want to finish the office and I want to give the flowerbeds some attention. The garden has to wait.

I’ve set May as my start date for any serious work in the vegetable garden. I say serious because I can’t deprive myself avoid it entirely.

There are a few things that needed to happen sooner.

First is unwrapping the grapes. I had covered our new vines in burlap last year hoping it would help them survive the winter. Now that the temperatures are warmer and the sun is shining, I wanted them to have the benefit of the nice weather. I’m still not entirely sure how many vines survived the winter, but I feel like at least a few are alive.

Uncovering grapes that have been wrapped in burlap

I planted a rhubarb plant that I stole from my parents’ garden. Rhubarb has been on my list for a few years, so it’s exciting to have our own plant finally. This plant seems quite happy. Transplanting early in the season is working very well for me this year. The ground is wet, temperatures are mild, sun is shining. I’ve been moving a number of plants around and they all seem to be thriving.

Rhubarb early in spring

Matt and I cut up our seed potatoes. We planted our potatoes the first of May last year, and it worked out great, so we’re trying to get them ready. The cool thing about our potatoes this year is that except for one new variety our seed potatoes are all potatoes that we grew ourselves last year. We have Russian Blues, red and Kennebecs. The Kennebecs were our favourite last year and lived up to Karen’s hype. This year we’re adding Basin Gold, which are a big baking potato. Matt had bought these at the grocery store and they happened to sprout before we ate them, so into the garden they go.

I’m not sure where I read about this chitting technique, but this has worked for us the past few years. We cut the potatoes so that each chunk has about one eye. Then we let them dry out for a few weeks so that the potatoes don’t rot when we put them in the ground. I know people say these white stringy sprouts are not desirable, but they worked well for us last year and our plants seemed to grow faster.

Methinks we’re going to have lotsa potatoes.

Seed potatoes

The other exciting garden development–and one which I’ve done nothing for–is asparagus. It’s alive! Our scraggly little plants that we started from seed last year have begat a few slender stalks. Spindly might be a better term. A step up from scraggly, but not quite slender yet. Size does not matter in this case. The fact that they’re alive is a win.

Asparagus

We’re just a few days away from May, so my self-imposed hiatus will be coming to an end shortly. Then it’s full speed ahead on the vegetable garden. I’m excited with what’s to come next.

What gardening have you been doing? Do you have any transplant or potato growing techniques?

Forsythia of ’17

Forsythia blossoms

If you’ve been following the blog for awhile, you’ll know that every year I measure the progress of spring by our forsythia.

Five years ago when we first moved to the farm, we had a huge bunch of blooms at the beginning of April. Every year since then, I’ve snapped a picture on April 2 to gauge how this year compares. This year, I somehow missed that. Oops.

After two years of beautiful blossoms, though, our forsythia floundered. In 2014, 2015 and 2016–the last three years–blossoms have been few and far between.

But this year, they’re back.

Blooming forsythia bushes

It’s a huge improvement over the last few years.

Forsythia through the years

I’m so glad that the forsythia is flourishing again. Even better, there are some extra bushes that I’ve never noticed before at the edge of the front field.

I don’t think I’ve shared this view of the house before. This gives you a sense of where our house sits in relation to the barn and the fields. (To take these pictures I was standing in the front field).

Farm in spring

Forsythia bushes in bloom

I love seeing spring take over the farm.

Grey days

Two grey days, exactly three weeks apart.

Snowy field in mid March

I swear as of this week I’m seeing the fields turn green. I can handle grey skies when I feel spring is coming.

Field at the beginning of April

This bird’s eye view is courtesy of a deer stand at the edge of the back field.

Looking down from the deer stand at Baxter on the ground

A great way to see the farm. But too tall for puppy.

Deer stand

As excited as I am for the green, last night we had a few snow flurries. C’mon spring!

What’s the weather like where you are? Are you seeing signs of spring?

Digging in the dirt

Tulips in the garden

Dirt under the nails, dirt on my jeans, digging in dirt. It has started.

It felt so good to get out in the sunshine on the weekend and start to weed the flower gardens.

Considering that last year it didn’t start at all, I had a bit of work to do.

A full year without weeding meant the garden was overgrown 6 months ago. After everything died off over the winter, it looked terrible.

Overgrown flower garden

Two heaping wheelbarrows later, it looks better, but a little bare.

Cleared garden

There’s plenty of room to grow. And it seems like the bushes, irises, sedums, tulips and other plants are all alive. So it should fill in quickly.

How are your gardens looking? Have you done any weeding yet?

Pick up sticks, farm style

Baxter behind a fallen tree

One of the common springtime jobs is picking up the branches and twigs that have fallen into the yard. When your yard is 129 acres, this job goes to another level.

I’ve written before about our trails and how we haven’t done a great job of maintaining them. Early in the winter, a decent size tree came down right across the entry of the west trail.

Cleaning this up will be much more than just picking up sticks.

Fallen tree across the trail

But for now, we’re letting fallen trees lie.

Last week, Baxter and I clambered over it to check out the rest of the trails.

This is actually a magic time to walk the trails. We’re not slogging through snow, wading through (much) water, battling masses of mosquitoes or dealing with overgrown grass and brush.

The trails are wet though. Matt and his Dad had laid a catwalk through the first marshy section, but it floated away a little while ago. We can sneak around on the right edge of the trail, but, of course, a tree has fallen to block the way. It’s a choice of hurdle or limbo and don’t fall in the water.

Hiking through the marsh

Farther along, we have an actual creek crossing. This section never ever dries up and will be deep and fast flowing in a few more weeks. As you can see, the catwalk in this area has also washed out.

Crossing the creek

The willow on the other side of the creek has lost a large limb.

Fallen tree branch

Deeper into the woods, we climb to higher ground and the forest changes to evergreens–including new trees that have sprouted in the middle of the trail.

Hiking through an evergreen forest

At the end of the trail, we reach the east boundary of our property. Looking to the north, somewhere on the other side of this marsh, is the other half of our trail network.

Overlooking the marsh

Baxter and I backtracked so that we could check it out too.

The east trail is not nearly as wet. There’s a creek at the entrance, but an old corduroy road topped with a plank makes crossing easy.

Corduroy road

The east trail has the same tree issues as the west, though. We’ve had a super windy winter, so some fairly large trees have fallen.

Baxter under a fallen tree

Baxter under a fallen tree

I’m on the lookout for a brigade of forest rangers with chainsaws who want to give me a few weeks of free labour.

If they are wearing hip waders that would be great.

Wading in the water

Bax and I did discover a few things that could help with our water issues.

At the edge of the back field are a couple of large piles of tires. Aren’t these ugly? I still think we could upgrade our catwalks using these as “piers” and laying skids across them to make a boardwalk.

Tires thrown away in the woods

Alternatively, we could channel the water with these culverts. I continue to be amazed at what’s been abandoned and dumped on the property.

Culverts

For now, barring the arrival of any forest rangers, I’m happy to just enjoy the farm and our trails. And that’s my plan for the weekend.

What are your plans for the weekend? Do you do pick up sticks at your house in the spring?

 

A heck of a hive

Giant wasp nest on the ground

Snow melts. Grass dies. And all of a sudden things appear.

Things like a giant wasp nest.

Giant wasp nest on the ground

I’ve never seen a nest this large. Let alone one built on the ground.

Never mind knee high to a grasshopper. This is knee high to a grown (albeit not super tall) woman.

Giant wasp nest on the ground

Have you ever seen a nest this large? Is spring uncovering anything at your house?

Second year for syrup

Tapping a maple tree

It’s maple syrup season again on the farm. Or we think it is.

This is only our second time tapping our trees, so we’re still pretty much guessing. Temperatures are supposed to be above freezing during the day this week and below at night. From what I’ve read and what we learned last year, that’s sap weather.

Last year, we were impressed by how easy it was and how much syrup we made. In fact, we still have syrup left. We just don’t eat enough pancakes at our house.

But we’re not letting that stop us. We enjoyed making syrup last year, so we’re going to do it again.

Like so much of what we do on the farm, this is an experiment, so we’re learning as we go.

Lesson #1: Make sure the drill battery is charged (and the back-up too) before you start tapping. Mr. Dewalt had to hang out for a little while until the bit could spin enough to get him unstuck.

Drill stuck in a tree

Matt has picked a couple of new trees. The only issue is they’re not the easiest to access. More incentive to clean up the brush and junk along the edge of the field.

Tapping maple trees

The other three buckets went on our most productive trees from last year. (Can you spot the puppy?)

Tapping maple trees

Now our fingers are crossed that the weather cooperates and the sap starts flowing.

A walk by the creek

Creek flowing over rocks

Care to join me on an evening walk along the creek?

We’ll start at the front of the property where water from farms to the north of us drains onto our land. It flows along the border of the front field, cuts under the driveway and then picks up another stream. From here it snakes along the perimeter of the corner field following the edge of our pine forest.

Creek

Partway along, we come to an old bridge that once connected the field to the forest. I discovered this bridge on one of my first rambles in the early months of owning the farm. I remember how excited I was, although I have yet to attempt to cross the bridge.

Dilapidated bridge

Some day, we may repair the bridge and establish some pathways through the forest.

Dilapidated bridge

As we near the mouth of the pond, the creek drops, swirling under trees, around boulders and over rocks.

Creek flowing over rocks

Unusual weather for January in Canada–five degrees and day after day of rain this week–has the water high and flowing fast, yet ice still coats the grass along the shore.

 

Fast flowing water in the creek

We end our ramble at the pond where the ice is melting in this January thaw.

Pond during a January thaw

Just one small problem, we’re on the wrong side of the creek and the bridge is out. Be careful getting home. 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone. May I suggest you go for a ramble?

Home Goals 2017

Alright. It’s officially time to start looking ahead. Time to share my Home Goals 2017.

Unusually, I’ve not been thinking about these for the past few months. Some of them have solidified over the last few weeks–one of them even started just before the end of last year. Some of them came together just as I was writing this post.

I think we’re getting to the stage where more things are done around the house–and the things that are yet to come are biggies. As in so big we’re not ready to tackle them yet (although I really, really, really want a garage).

However, there’s still enough to keep us busy for another year. Here’s what’s on the list.

My office

Turquoise and brass file cabinet from DIY Mommy

Source: DIY Mommy

Ahhh. My office. Finally a room of my own (thank you Virginia Woolf–not an affiliate link). I don’t know as I can convey the monumentalness of this project–except by making up words. Five years ago we moved to the farm. Since that time, moving boxes have been stacked against the wall in my “office.” I want to unpack and truly have a functional office. Finishing off my office will finish off another milestone for the house: the final bedroom.

The transformation is already underway. This is the project that Matt and I started right at the end of December–gotta keep up our holiday tradition of scraping a stippled ceiling.

Clean up the pond shore

Property clean up has been on my list every year. And every year I end up working on whatever spot shows up in front of me. This year I want to be a little more plannful. This year, I am cleaning up the pond shore–how’s that for an emphatic statement.

The pond is my favourite place on our whole 129 acres. And I haven’t been able to easily access the shore the whole time we’ve lived here. I’ve considered enlisting professional help, but I think if I put out a call, I should be able to find a few family members willing to wield chainsaws and weed eaters for a weekend.

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was our major project last year, and as a result I feel like we’re in very good shape to start this year’s growing season. However, there are a few things I’d like to add this year, like rhubarb, a second row of berries (maybe raspberries, maybe something else) and maybe some more grapes.

Most important, this year I am going to keep the weeds under control–another emphatic statement. I’m hoping a deep mulch will help me not spend my whole summer weeding.

Flower gardens

Last year our flower gardens were entirely neglected as the vegetable garden consumed all our time. This year I want to give them at least a little bit of attention.

I’ve dumped plants randomly in two beds at the front of the house, and they need a bit of organization. I’d like to add some more shade tolerant flowers to the turnaround.

I’m also planning to remove the flowerbeds at the back of the house (there are only so many hours in a day, and mowing is easier than weeding).

Basement

I’ve said it before. The basement has been hanging around long enough. This is the year we’re going to finish it once and for all–including fun art.

New barn cat

Ralph the barn cat

This one may be more of a farm goal than a home goal.

We have an outstanding barn cat in Ralph. So outstanding that we’d love for her to teach someone the wisdom of her ways. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to go about finding her an apprentice, but we’re going to figure it out.

So there you have it. Six goals. Two inside, three outside, one alive. Some big, some small, one with a tail. Some easy, some tedious, some furry.

We’ll see how this goes.

Time to get started!

Do you have any goals for this year? What would you like to accomplish at your house? Any tips for introducing a new barn cat? Anyone want to help clear the shore at the pond?

That’s a wrap

If you’re looking for Christmas presents, fancy paper and pretty ribbons, you’ve come to the wrong place.

I did do some wrapping this weekend, but it was in the garden (yes, I’m still working in the garden).

I have wrapped our grape vines in burlap. I have no idea if this is the right thing to do or not, but, as I’ve said before, gardening is an experiment.

Wrapping grape vines in burlap

The grapes are brand new and they’re a wee bit exposed on the outer edge of the garden where it meets the field. I felt like a bit of additional protection wouldn’t hurt, and I had some burlap lying around, so a couple of weekends ago, I stapled a length of fabric to the fence.

Wrapping grape vines in burlap

Of course, I ran out and by the time I picked up more burlap, we’d had snow. A lot of snow–at least for us and for this time of year.

Wrapping grape vines in burlap

Since I could no longer open the garden gate–unless I wanted to shovel and I had been shoveling for a couple of hours by the time I had the brainwave to finish the garden–I tossed the burlap, the stapler and the scissors over the fence, and then climbed the fence myself. In case you’re wondering, climbing a fence in bulky snow pants and boots is not the easiest. But the snow makes a soft landing.

I was grateful we have a wood fence, because it was easy to just staple the burlap right to the wood. Where the bottom of the fence was buried in snow, I packed the snow against the fabric to hold it in place.

Wrapping grape vines in burlap

Then I ever so gracefully climbed out of the garden again.

This officially wraps up work on the garden for this year. (And no, I’m not sorry for the pun. That was completely on purpose.)