Happy September. Does anyone else feel like the clock is ticking? Yesterday we had our first cool temperatures and even saw a flock of geese flying over.
Fall on the farm always comes with a bit of pressure (or at least an ambitious to-do list flitting around in my brain). I know it’s not fall yet, and I said in my last post that I’m holding onto summer as long as I can. I am. But there’s a window here. So I am declaring September garden month.
I have some very specific tasks that I’d like to tackle this month, so that I am prepped for winter. Really, I’m looking beyond winter and ahead to next summer.
You may recall that my Christmas gift from Matt’s Dad last year was a load of topsoil. We have put the dirt to good use, but we still have a large pile left. I know exactly where I’m going to use it, and if I have a day with the tractor, I think I can get it all spread. Toss on some grass seed, and we’ll have a smooth(er), green(er) lawn next year.
Clean up vegetable garden
We had more success in the vegetable garden this summer than in many years. It’s still a complete disaster, but we made an itty-bitty bit of progress. I’d like to build on that progress by cleaning up what worked this year (zucchini, cucumbers, peas, raspberries), and getting one quadrant ready for planting next year. That means pruning, paths, rows, mulch, cover crops.
Transplant well garden
Anticipating that we will be building the driveway/mudroom patio next year, I want to empty the flower garden that’s currently in this spot. This garden is well-established, and I don’t want to lose the plants when everything is under construction. I always envisioned the turnaround being a massive flower garden, so I my plan is to use these plants to begin to fill the other half, which is currently grass.
Working on these tasks this month will hopefully give seeds and plants time to get established before winter and set us up for smooth(er) sailing next year. At least, that’s the plan. Ellie starts school next week, so I will have more time for projects (at least that’s the plan). Garden month, here I come.
Do you have any projects you’re working on this month? Anyone else feeling the pressure of winter looming? Share what you’re working on in the comments, and we’ll cheer each other on.
Before writing this post, I felt like I was doing pretty well (spoiler alert: after writing the post I feel the same way). There was a moment in the spring when things felt doable. Then another moment when everything raced ahead–as always happens in spring–and I felt like I’d never catch up.
I’m still not caught up, but I’m comfortable with where we’re at. And in some ways I feel like we’re ahead of the last few years.
Here is some of what we’ve been up to so far in 2022.
The mudroom sees a lot of action everyday as we enter and exit the house. But it has not seen a lot of action on the finish-off-the-reno front. All of the niggly little details are why the One Room Challenge is such a good event. I had five tasks on my mudroom to-do list. I have crossed two of them off–refinishing and hanging a mirror and installing a nightlight cover plate. I have another six months to install the pulls on the dressers, finish the key cabinet and hang art.
As I wrote last month, our “big project of the year”–paving the driveway, adding a patio and some steps for the mudroom and living room–is not going to happen this year. Ellie and I have spread topsoil and grass seed all around the garage, so the DIY portion of this project is done. I’m still hunting for contractors with the goal to line up someone before the end of 2022 to finish the driveway and patio next year.
Plan for the worst
I’ve made a bit of progress on preparing for the worst, but not as much as I want to (as I noted at the start of the year, these are not fun tasks). I’ve updated our home insurance and closed extra bank accounts. Still on my to-do list: digitizing important documents, making a household inventory, packing a go bag, updating my will, and making some notes for my executor. The extreme weather we have now, especially the high winds, reinforce how important some of these tasks are.
Connecting with the history of this farm is very meaningful, so this goal is one that I really enjoy. I’ve kept in touch with the woman whose family first owned this farm. I’ve also spent some time with the owners who lived here from 1980-2000, and last month met a woman who lived here from the 1950s-70s. I found out the original farmhouse burned around 1974, and her father built the house that we live in.
I’m trying to learn more about the Indigenous people who lived in this area, and work to acknowledge them and honour them in how I care for this land. Growing my understanding of this place is ongoing and deepens my relationship with the farm.
I made some good progress in the spring clearing more area along the creek and even started a little bridge. The phragmites are doing their best to erase my work, but I’m battling back. I’m also on the hunt for used decking for the surface of our new bridge.
In January I wrote, “Hope springs eternal for the vegetable garden.” I still feel that way. Ellie and I planted zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and peas, and they’re all doing well. Ellie ate the first raspberries off our canes over the weekend. We have a loooooong way to go to return the garden to a productive, manageable vegetable garden, but we’re doing better than we’ve done the last few years. So hope continues.
I’ve not gotten a quote yet for eavestrough on the barn, though this is still my plan for this year. I’m also considering that I may try to start demolishing the old chicken coop (is that phrasing tentative enough?). I really, really want to have birds. If I do some prep this year, perhaps next year when I have machines here for the patio and driveway, they can clear away the last of the rubble. Then I’ll be ready to build the new coop next year. Home goals 2023, here I come?
I am feeling good about what we’ve accomplished so far. We of course have done many more things than are listed here and have more plans for the rest of the year, including some beyond these goals. I’ll be sharing more as we go through the rest of the year.
But for the rest of this month, I’m putting the blog on vacation. I will focusing on enjoying summer–playing with Ellie, spending time with family, and of course working around the farm.
How is 2022 going for you so far? Do you have any home goals? What is your big project for the year?
A year ago the south side of the house looked like this.
Now, it looks like this. Not a huge improvement. But we do have doors, lights and a place to sit.
Last year, the garage and mudroom was our big renovation. As I mentioned in my Home Goals post at the start of this year, landscaping around the garage was to be this year’s big project. However, it is not going to happen.
I have had absolutely no luck finding a landscaper. Four different companies came to look at the project. Two companies were not a fit. They do much bigger jobs and their view was much more extravagant than mine. Two other companies took measurements, promised designs and then I never heard from them again.
The upside of all of these meetings is that I have refined my vision of what I want for the side of the house. I want no pergola, no wall, no gable over the mudroom entrance, no built-in seating (thank you companies #1 and #2). I want a natural stone patio from the mudroom door to the edge of the stone wall. The patio will be one step up from the driveway. I want big stone steps leading up to the patio door. I want a simple asphalt driveway.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what I wanted for this spot. I put the benches and coffee table in place as a test to see if we’d use them, and we have (and yes, they’re currently crowding the patio door). We sit here all the time for snacks and even lunch. This side of the house gets lots of sun and is a nice warm (sometimes hot) place to sit. A proper patio with a bit of furniture would be ideal for us.
The size of the patio should give us a comfortable area to go in and out of the house without landing right on the driveway. It should also give us just enough space to squeeze in a comfy lounge seat along with a small dining table. We don’t currently have another place for eating outside.
I’m hoping that knowing what I’m looking for will help me to manage expectations for the next companies that I consult. And I’m hoping that one of them will be willing to take on the project for 2023.
In the meantime, I have resigned myself to plowing a gravel driveway for another winter and made a few upgrades to tide us over.
To fulfill a bit of my wish for natural stone, I added a (relatively) flat rock outside the mudroom to the make the step a little more manageable. I dragged an old mounting block from the barn to the patio door, so that we can actually come out that way if we want to.
Ellie and I also spread the topsoil that Matt’s Dad got for me all around the garage and seeded. Getting the pile of dirt off the driveway felt like progress.
Not as much progress as I was hoping for but some.
What’s your big project for the year at your house? Have you had to put any projects on hold this year? Who else is working on landscaping (big of small)?
Row by row is the best way to characterize the vegetable garden right now.
I had ambitions to make May garden month. As in get the vegetable garden in shape. Be ready to go by the start of June as soon as the risk of frost had passed.
That didn’t happen.
But my ambitions and Ellie’s enthusiasm for the garden have not diminished.
June (or the second half of June) is now garden month. We’re planting and weeding and mulching and building as we go. It’s not my preferred thoughtful, methodical approach. But inch by inch, we’re making progress.
My aim is to do a no-dig garden with mulched pathways between the wide rows. This has been my goal for years now, but maybe this year we get a little closer.
We have a mountain of woodchips piled outside the gate of the garden, thanks to a local tree company. We have piles of cardboard in the driveshed that I’ve been collecting since last year. We also have the mower, which has been my weapon against the grass and weeds that clog much of the garden.
I’m keeping my focus small. One quadrant. We have sowed cucumbers, carrots, zucchini and peas. If the plants get established and we’re on top of the weeds, perhaps the raspberries, asparagus or grapes may get some attention.
Just like my current soundtrack, the vegetable garden is determined by Ellie. She is very excited for the garden this year. Her excitement doesn’t involve prep like weeding or laying out beautiful raised rows, but she does make it fun.
Our garden is already underway for 2022–despite waking up to snow on the ground yesterday. Spring, where are you?
Ellie received a set of gardening tools and many packets of seeds for her birthday. She was very excited to start planting, so we have a bumper crop of tiny watermelon plants living in the dining room. I’m hoping the weather warms up before they become big watermelon plants.
The rest of her seeds are all crops that can be sown directly into the garden.
I’ve also been pruning the grapes a little bit. The grapes have been neglected (as has the rest of the garden) and they’re getting a bit wild. A longtime blogging friend, Kit, inspired me to give them some attention. I’ve not pruned as much as Kit did, as I feel like the shock might kill the vines. But I’ve tidied them up a lot, so I’m curious to see how they do this season.
I also have a line on some mulch that I’m hoping will help to subdue some of the weeds.
I aspire to have a beautiful and productive farm garden some day. We have been so, so far from that for so, so many years. I’m hoping that we can make a bit of progress this year. Ellie is extremely excited by her gardening tools (highly recommend this gift) and enthused about being helpful in the garden. So maybe this will be the year.
Are you planning to grow any food this year? Have you started your garden yet?
I love being outside at the farm during a full moon. Being able to see my shadow at night feels like a bit of magic. Last week we had a maple moon–a full moon that coincided with the sap running in the maple trees.
Once again, we have tapped our trees. The annual sap run and syrup making has become a fun tradition.
Ellie loves sample the sap as it drips from the trees and then monitor the sap as it boils on the stove. (We scorched our first batch, so she keeps an extra close eye now.)
Enjoying our sweet homemade syrup is a sweet treat for the rest of the year (as long as it lasts) and a continual reminder of the magic of the farm.
Last year I returned to annual home goals with some pretty big projects (garage, mudroom, treehouse). It was motivating and fun, and I’m looking forward to more this year (though some lower budget projects, as I’m also rebuilding our savings).
Here is what’s on my list for 2022.
The mudroom ended 2021 as pretty much a blank slate. It had a fresh coat of paint, but no decor and storage was pretty makeshift. Built-ins are still the plan for this room (the ones below would be perfect, thanks), but they’re down the road a little ways. For now, I’m looking for some make-it-work-but-less-makeshift storage and some pretty finishing touches for the room. First up, painting some dressers.
The garage landscaping will likely be our big project of the year. I’d like to pave the driveway and add a patio and some steps for the mudroom and living room (like the beautiful stone steps below). This project will require some professional help. The DIY portion will be spreading some topsoil and grass seed around the garage. Matt’s Dad bought me a load of topsoil for Christmas, so we’re ready to go as soon as the snow melts.
Plan for the worst
Natural disasters and personal tragedies throw people’s lives into chaos every year. I want to protect Ellie and me and the farm, as much as possible. Some of the things on my list for this year include digitizing important documents, making a household inventory, packing a go bag, updating my will, and streamlining our finances. (This book has tips to address all of these and more.) These are not fun tasks, but I know they will give me peace of mind.
It’s been very special to connect with the woman whose family first owned this farm, and I’m looking forward to learning more from her. I’d also like to go farther back in the farm’s history and learn more about the Indigenous people who lived in this area and do more to acknowledge their history. This beautiful book that I received for Christmas has been very inspiring.
The pond shore returns for its annual appearance on this list. This year, I’m hoping to continue to clear the shore toward the creek and finally build a little bridge across.
Hope springs eternal for the vegetable garden. Ellie has picked some things she’d like to grow this year, and I’m hoping that interest translates into more time in the garden. I feel like I learned a good lesson last year: the garden–even if I achieve a low maintenance level–needs attention. Fingers are crossed that I give it more of that attention this year.
Our beautiful big barn. I love this barn, and I want to preserve it. There are a few cracks in the foundation and a few leaky spots on back roof. I’ve had some people out to look at the foundation, and their assessment has been that the barn is in pretty good shape. Though they’ve also provided me quotes to restore the foundation, and the estimates are expen$$$$$ive in the extreme. One thing I can do is eavestrough. This will be a relatively inexpensive way help to ensure water runs away and protect the structure.
I am excited by what we have planned for this year, and I’m looking forward to sharing more with all of you.
What are you aiming to do at your house this year? Are you focused inside or out? What would your dream playground have? Any tips for low maintenance gardening? Is there such a thing?
I returned to annual home goals last year after a four-year break. It felt good to be focused and have some projects to work on through the year. And I feel like I did pretty well at accomplishing my goals.
Here’s a look back at what happened around the farm in 2021.
Our biggest project last year (biggest home project so far) was the garage and mudroom. These spaces have made such a difference for our home and how we use it. There are a few things to work on still (Home Goals 2022 coming soon!), but I am so happy we did this renovation.
The treehouse playground was a highlight of last year. Both for the actual building and for the fun Ellie has playing on it.
The pond shore is my perennial home goal. Last year, we cleared a little more of the shore, though I didn’t do as much as I hoped and I didn’t build a little bridge across the creek. What is clear, we enjoyed, though. I had bonfires almost every week with my friends over the summer, and Ellie and I make regular visits to the little waterfall.
I would classify the garden as a fail last year. I tried mulch, but didn’t build proper raised rows. And I didn’t spend enough time in the garden to maintain it. We did grow a few things, and I feel like I keep learning every year.
The last big junk pile
The last big junk pile is pretty much gone and our new compost area is built. I have a bit more to tidy this spring, but the view out the dining room window is vastly improved.
I thought my new duvet cover might inspire other changes in our bedroom. That didn’t happen. (My Mom did gift me with new pillows for Christmas.) The space is working well enough. Though I still think a closet reorganization would be lovely.
I was able to keep in touch with the woman who’s family first owned this farm over the last year. In fact, I have a story of a special tree planting to share soon.
The garage, mudroom and treehouse are the big wins of last year. The garden is the big fail. But overall I am really happy with what we accomplished. I work best when I have specific projects to focus on, and I’m looking forward to setting new goals for 2022.
What was your biggest accomplishment at your house last year? Did you have any fails? Did you set any home goals?
Every farm has a junk pile. For us, our junk pile was along the tree line beside the garden. As we cleaned up other areas around the property, this was the spot we stashed things that we didn’t want to deal with.
Past owners had piled concrete blocks, bricks, old windows and barn doors. We added a basketball net (left behind by those same past owners), planters (past owners), composters (past owners), wood fence posts, two big hay bales, and more barn doors. This is also the spot I chose to dump clippings and weeds from the gardens. It was unmowable, unruly and unattractive.
This year, I decided it was time to tackle the junk pile.
The old windows (all of which had broken) went to the dump. The barn doors (which had mostly rotted) were burned. The hay bales went into the garden. Matt’s Dad trimmed low hanging branches so the tractor could drive through. Bricks were restacked, and then we added more with the brick that we removed for the garage renovation. So the junk pile hasn’t gone away. But it’s tidier than it was.
All year I’ve slowly pushed the junk back closer to the tree line and mowed farther and farther from the garden.
The last thing I wanted to tackle was the garden dump pile. It was years of raspberry canes, flowers, shrubs, vegetables, plants and weeds. All just dumped on the ground in an ever expanding blob.
My solution to contain the blob was a new compost bin. Matt’s Dad collected some skids for me. I used leftover deck blocks and 4x4s from the treehouse (of random lengths), and I made a large three-sided bin. I only made three sides, as I want to be able to dump the wheelbarrow into it easily. I also figure with this design the pile might be fairly easy to turn.
Skids are a common material these days for compost bins, but most bins are four-sided. I’ll see how our three-sided bin works and adjust if I need to.
I built the bin and then used the tractor to push the existing pile of garden waste into its new home. Then I dismantled the composter behind the house and added its contents to the new bin. The composter, though convenient to the kitchen, had come apart and the plastic had warped so much that I wasn’t able to put it back together.
My new solution for kitchen waste is a five gallon pail with a lid in the garage. I dump the kitchen compost into the pail and once a week or so carry the pail over to the garden and dump it in the big compost bin. I think this will give us a better mix of brown and green materials and I like the simplicity of having all of our compost in one spot.
I did the final vegetable garden clean out last week and added this year’s clippings to the new bin. We now have a wide swath beside the garden that we’ll be able to mow next year.
Let’s have a spring to fall before and after, shall we? Then I am crossing the last big junk pile off my Home Goals 2021 list.
Do you have a junk pile at your house? Who else is trying to finish off outdoor projects before the weather changes? What kind of compost bin do you have? Any compost tips to share?
It is such a fun place to play. Ellie and I spend a lot of time here. We read books, act out Frozen, eat pretend and real food (her outdoor play kitchen lives next door to the treehouse), play with dolls and stuffed animals. Everyone is welcome in the treehouse–even my Mom has climbed up.
I’m also really proud. It’s been a long time since I’ve built something like this. I had help at various points, but I did a lot on my own. It took figuring and muscle and time. But it was all worth it. It is solid and safe and fun and matches the picture in my mind.
I’m also excited because Ellie loves it. She’s mastered the tire ladder and keeps sliding down the firepole (with help). One day, she did circuits, sliding down the slide, running around to the tires and climbing back up, over and over again.
Want a tour?
I have always wanted a tire ladder. The playground at my elementary school had a tire ladder, and the memory of climbing up has stuck with me. Plus we have a large quantity of tires lying around the farm, and this was a way to use some of them up.
The tires are bolted to the wood frame of the treehouse and then to each other. To make the tires easier to climb, I realized I needed to convince them to slope, rather than hang vertical. I ended up digging a hole at the base of the ladder and sinking a couple of concrete blocks under the ground. I wired the bottom tires to the blocks and buried the whole thing.
Even with the slope, the tire ladder is not that easy to climb, especially if you’re really little or really big. So I added a regular ladder too. I built a simple sloped ladder out of 2×6 that is easy for little ones, Mamas and Grandmas to climb.
The slide was a kijiji find after I decided the slide I picked out of someone’s garbage was too broken. The kijiji slide still needed some fibreglass in a few spots, but it seems to be solid now.
The slide resulted in the biggest adjustment I had to make to the treehouse plans. I had built the deck at 5 feet high, which seemed to be the right height for our 10 foot slide.
At Krista’s treehouse, my inspiration, their deck had ended up too high, and they had to build a few steps down to lower the slide. I wanted to avoid that. But as soon as I propped the slide up onto our deck, it was obvious it was too high. Ellie bravely went down twice, but it was scary fast.
Rather than steps, I did a lower platform and attached the slide to that. Now the slide is fast, but not scary.
The firepole took a bit of figuring and sourcing. I ended up constructing it out of 1 1/2 inch metal electrical conduit. There is a joint, as we needed a bit more than the ten feet that was available at the store. But the joint is pretty low on the pole, so it’s unlikely anyone will have to slide over it. Just in case, I wrapped it in tape to make sure it doesn’t pinch or scrape anyone.
The base of the pole extends into the ground and is encased in concrete. At the top, the pole turns 90 degrees and is affixed to both the treehouse railing and the tree itself. It is solid. In fact, it’s my preferred way to get down.
The structure of the treehouse sits on 4×4 posts set on deck blocks. The joists are 2×6 and the beams are 2×8. The joists are also bolted to the tree.
I bought the main posts new, but most of the lumber is recycled. The joists, beams and 2x4s on the railings came from the deck in the old pool. The deck boards came from a local deck builder’s dumpster (with permission). The railing pickets I bought second hand off kijiji. I also raided our stash in the barn for extra pieces.
The platform is about 5 feet high at the tree, but because the tree is on a little mound, the edges of the platform are about 6 1/2 feet off the ground. The main platform is about 10 feet by 12 feet and the slide extension is about 2 feet wide.
We have a great view across the fields, and I can envision Ellie (or me) relaxing up there with a book someday.
This was a fun project to plan, build and now use. I’m glad that I was able to make it for Ellie.
Did you have a treehouse growing up? What would your dream treehouse have? What was your favourite part of a playground? Do you have a summer project that you’re particularly proud of?