Vegetable garden 2023

This year’s vegetable garden is underway. You may recall that I ended 2022 on a high. Not because we’d had a successful gardening year. We didn’t. I was excited because I’d done a lot of clean up last fall and had high hopes for a successful garden this year.

I’m still optimistic–though I am remembering that I still have to put in the work.

After being neglected for so long, our weeds are very well established. I laid down cardboard last year, using the no dig method to try to smother them. However, I ran out of cardboard, so there are lots of weedy spots. Also, some weeds have broken through the cardboard. So I’m going to have to deal with them.

But, on the topic of putting in the work, I’ve done some weeding and am proud of the progress.

Our asparagus is up, and we are finally going to have a harvest. (This will be our first time picking any asparagus since I planted the seeds in 2016 and transplanted the plants in 2019.) It may not be much, but there are several stalks that pass the pencil test. I’m sure our asparagus will grow much better when it’s finally freed of the grass that’s trying to choke it.

The rhubarb is up too. It’s a bit spindly, so again, some attention there with weeding and compost will cheer it up.

We planted garlic for the first time last year, and it is very happy. I am too. Put it in in the fall. It pops up in the spring and is the first sign of green. Hopefully we all live happily ever after–or at least until harvest.

It looks like one of our grape vines has died, but the rest are alive. The pink buds that appear before the leaves unfurl are one of my favourite sights. The raspberries and blackberries are thriving, especially since I removed some of the weeds around them.

I’ve also mowed the garden once, in case it’s not clear that we still have a long, long way to go.

Inside the house is where we’re having our biggest garden success so far. Ellie and I went through our seeds and picked some to start indoors. We planted three kinds of tomatoes, watermelon, broccoli and cauliflower. All of our seeds are pretty old, so I wasn’t optimistic. This is a reset year where I’m just trying to get back in the gardening groove. Old seeds are sufficient for me right now.

I am amazed that it looks like every single seed sprouted, except for the cauliflower. We have so many seedlings and they seem really healthy. We repotted the tomatoes and watermelon over the weekend and brewed some compost tea for them.

We have lots of other seeds that we’ll sow directly into the garden.

Our garden start so far is ups and downs, which I’ve come to learn is pretty typical of vegetable gardening. Hopefully we can put in the work, find our groove and have at least some successful harvests.

Are you gardening at your house? How is your garden growing? Anyone else starting seeds? Battling weeds? Looking for your groove?

Community clean up

Every year, our local Optimist service club organizes a community clean up. We got the flyer and a garbage bag in our mailbox a few weeks ago and after asking, “Why did we get a garbage bag in the mailbox?” Ellie was keen to participate. So Saturday morning, we headed out to clean up the ditch along the front of the property.

It is so annoying to me how much litter people pitch onto the side of the road. I’ve done this clean up a few times and every year is the same. Coffee cups. Cans. Takeout bags. Wrappers.


This is my first time doing a clean up with Ellie, and I am so proud of her. She climbed up and down the ditch. Picked up trash. Pulled the wagon.

And she understood that littering is wrong. This is not the right way to treat the Earth.

We finished from our driveway to the corner–one small section of the 2km of roads that border the farm. We filled one bag of garbage and one bin of recycling.

It was progress. Not so much for our property or for the Earth as for Ellie… and me too. What she’s learning, the way she thinks and the person she is give me hope and motivate me to keep trying to improve the world.

Four tips for tackling an intimidating task

Remember when we bought a rotary cutter? (For those that need a refresher, it was in 2017.) We put it to work mowing the septic bed, meadow and pond shore. And then it got tucked into the driveshed and has been used rarely since.

Last year I cleared the septic bed and part of the meadow (again). But I didn’t use the cutter. The brush was too big by then, so I used my new-to-me reciprocating saw. Then Matt’s Dad came and used his chainsaw.

It was always my plan to use the rotary cutter too, but I never got to it last year.

Last week, I decided to give it a try.

I took advantage of nice weather, a free afternoon, and Ellie at school to hook up the mower. Tasks like this are always a bit intimidating for me. The cutter is huge and heavy. It’s a bit tricky to get everything connected properly. The tractor doesn’t always have great traction, and the ground I wanted to mow was hilly and bumpy–lots of chances to get stuck. (Like Cigo in the photo below, who is actually tangled up in a wild raspberry bramble.)

But in about twenty minutes, I had the cutter connected. Alright. Let’s try mowing. Success.

An hour after I first came outside, I was done. A task that had been on my list since last year (longer if you look back to when we bought the cutter) was done.

I was so proud of myself. Conquering something that feels hard is a big accomplishment. Here are my tips for tackling an intimidating task.

Start small

Break your task down into smaller steps. Focusing on one thing at a time can be less intimidating than looking at the whole big project that you have to do. My initial plan was to see if I could get the mower hooked up to the tractor. Even if that was all I accomplished, I was going to call it a win.

Just start

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to begin. Or you feel you can’t start until everything is perfectly set up. With the mowing, at first I couldn’t figure out how to balance the mower. It was tilted way too far forward and the front edge dug into the ground if I lowered the hitch too far. Also, I couldn’t get the PTO to fully lock. But I started anyway. After my first pass, I figured out how to balance the mower. The PTO slipped off a few times, but I eventually got it to click. And in the meantime, I got some mowing done. Even if you don’t feel completely ready, start. You’ll already be accomplishing something.

Ask for help

There is no rule that says you have to do everything yourself. It can be hard to ask for help, but in my experience people are usually very willing to step up. With the mowing, I could have called our farmer, our tractor salesperson, or my cousin who helps mow our grass. They are all very kind, generous people who know exactly how to connect the cutter to the tractor and would be happy save me some anxiety–and muscle strains. Think about the task you’re tackling and who would be best to help.

Know when to quit

Intimidating tasks truly are hard. If things really aren’t working out, it’s okay to take a break and come back later. (Perhaps after exercising your phone a friend option, above.) Even if things are going well, it’s also okay to take a break. With the mowing, I’d cleared the areas I wanted to clear and I’d managed not to get stuck. (I’d also managed not to run out of fuel, but the gauge was very low.) There’s always more I can do, but sitting on the tractor eyeing additional overgrown areas, I said to myself, “You’re pushing your luck.” And I drove up the hill to the barn.

It feels really good to cross this task off my list–and to know that I can do it again if I need to.

I’m hoping to do at least a couple more mowings this year to keep the septic bed clear. Maintaining is much easier than starting from scratch (again).

It’s also easier knowing that I can do this–and it wasn’t that hard.

Do you have any accomplishments to share? Or any intimidating tasks that you need encouragement to tackle? What tips to do you have to tackle intimidating tasks? What outdoor work have you been doing at your place?

The middle

The part we all wait for in DIY is “look at the beautiful room/garden/furniture/shelfie/whatever I made!” The middle while you’re waiting is less beautiful, less photogenic, less interesting.

I’m in the middle.

I feel like I have little to report. But I like the regularity of writing a blog post for every Monday, so here I am. Schedules and deadlines–even when self-imposed–work well for me. In both blogs and renovations.

Ellie’s room makeover is on track. We’ve had paint week. Last week was window week (curtains are tedious, so I’m not giving you a whole blog post about the HALF A DAY I spent ironing or the wait at Ikea to return a too short curtain rod).

This week is bed week. I’ve washed the dusty bedframe, added beadboard to the headboard, bought a new can of primer and am ready to begin painting the headboard. The mattress is being delivered on Thursday.

We’re on track. In fact, we’re on track for lots of projects. As with Ellie’s room, there’s not much to share yet, but I’m going to mention them anyway.


I’m halfway through clearing the manure off the old coop foundation. Getting to this point involved detaching the the snowblower from the tractor and recharging the tractor battery, so there was progress on several fronts.


We had some lovely weather last week, so Ellie and I enjoyed breakfast and lunch on our currently-imaginary-but-hopefully-soon-to-be patio and confirmed that, yes, we would like a proper place to eat and sit. Cigo sprawled in the sun. We set up a small table and chairs and confirmed that they should fit on the new patio. Construction should start sometime in May (fingers crossed).


Garlic is up in the vegetable garden. Transplants to the new turnaround garden seem to have survived. I have bales of cardboard and piles of mulch (and a brand new pile of very old manure) ready to be spread around. May may be garden month.

We keep moving ahead. Progress may not always be as quick as I want (I still can’t believe it took me a whole morning to iron curtains), but I know I’m getting closer to that beautiful, photogenic, interesting moment.

What projects are you in the middle of? How do you schedule projects? What tips do you have for persevering through the middle?

Home Goals 2023

I’m feeling pretty excited for this year’s home goals. We have some big projects coming up that will really transform the farm and how we live here. I also feel like we’re in a good place to tackle them. As you saw in my 2022 home goals wrap-up, I feel like we’re building toward the vision Matt and I have for this farm.

I’m also learning to make our home work for us. The way I want to do things, the way we live, the best use of our spaces. I’m less locked into keeping things just because that’s the way they’ve always been. This is our farm now, and I want to make it what we want.

Here’s how we’re going to be doing that this year.


Source: Backyard Poultry

First on the list is a (maybe) surprise project. We’re building a coop! Finally! We’ve lived here for nearly 11 years, and I’ve wanted birds the whole time. At my mid-year home goal review last year, I suggested maybe, possibly knocking down the old coop. Well, that ended up happening. There’s still a bit more clean-up to go, but it’s almost time to rebuild. Actual birds are not part of this year’s plan. I need a functional secure home for them first. Other barn upgrades, like last year’s eavestrough plan and probably some electrical, will be part of this project.


Source: RS Landscape & Construction

The driveway patio returns to the list. I think I’ve found a contractor. We’ve talked about my vision. We have a quote. We revised the quote so that it’s now in budget, but still in vision. We’ve looked at stone. We’ve talked timelines. I’m crossing my fingers that everything comes together to do this project this year.

Swing set

Source: Wayfair

This project is another carryover from last year, though you haven’t heard about it yet. Ellie very quickly outgrew the playset I bought for her. She now has the treehouse, which has been a huge hit. She needs a bigger swing set. Our girl is very into underdoggies, and as she grows she wants to swing higher than our little set can handle. I found swing set fittings on kijiji last year and even bought wood. This year, I will put it all together.

Vegetable garden

Source: Charles Dowding

I usually try to be cautious in the garden, but this year I’m feeling optimistic and it’s making me ambitious. I did a major cleanout in the fall, made a few rows and paths, and spread mulch everywhere. Ellie has big plans of what she wants to grow this year, and I’m hoping that we can get closer to a no-dig, not too weedy, productive garden.

Turnaround garden

Source: Gravetye Manor

Building another flower garden on the turnaround was a bit of an impromptu project last year when we transplanted the well garden in anticipation of building the driveway patio. I’m waiting to see what plants survived their hasty, late season relocation and we will keep growing from there.

Ellie’s bedroom

Source: Wendy Hyde via Design Mom

I think have finally convinced our girl to move rooms. So she and I will be coming up with a fun new design to make the guest room into Ellie’s room. Green is no longer her favourite colour, so now we’re aiming toward teal. Or maybe rainbow. My client has lots of ideas.

Of course, along the way there will continued work on the history of this farm, pond shore, pruning, more clean up everywhere, preparing for the worst, repairs and surprises. But there will also be lots of fun.

What projects are on your list for this year? Do you have any home goals?

Looking back at Home Goals 2022

I ended last year on a high, project-wise. For the first time in a long time, I felt like we were building, not just fixing. There is still a lot of fixing, but it felt like we were working toward something more this year than before.

I have this vision of a beautiful, comfortable farmhouse, a thriving garden, a gorgeous old barn, perhaps with a few animals in it. Some days, that vision seems far away. But by the end of 2022, I felt like it was a bit closer.

Here’s a look back at some of what we did and last year’s home goals.


The mudroom has been an amazing addition (literally) to our house. Finishing it off last year (barring possible future built-ins) has been a beautiful, comfortable and functional addition to our house.

Garage landscaping

Hiring a contractor to pave the driveway and build a patio and some steps for the mudroom and living room was supposed to be our big project of last year. However, I never found the right contractor, so it did not happen. Ellie and I spread topsoil and grass seed all around the garage, so some progress was made. I think I have found the right contractor, so I am optimistic that 2023 is going to be the year for the patio.

Plan for the worst

I’ve made a bit of progress on preparing for the worst, but not as much as I want to. I updated our home insurance, closed extra bank accounts and made household inventory videos for a few rooms. Although these tasks aren’t fun, they are important, so I will be trying to continue to make progress on this this year.


Living here, it’s impossible not to be conscious that this property has a long history before us. Before it was a farm. Doing my own work toward truth and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples is important to me. I am still trying to learn and understand more, and honour this history in how I care for this land. Writing a land acknowledgement for the farm was one step I took this year.

I’ve also kept in touch with the woman whose family first owned this farm, spent some time with the owners who lived here from 1980-2000, met a woman who lived here from the 1950s-70s (whose dad built the house that we live in), and met a woman who’s lived on the property behind us since 1945.

Growing my understanding of this place is ongoing and deepens my relationship with the farm.

Pond shore

The pond shore has come so far. Having our fire pit set up, being able to get to the water, visiting the waterfall, building our little bridge has made it a lot easier to enjoy this spot–which I already enjoyed quite a lot. I still need decking for our new bridge and to build a better trail to it, but we’re in pretty good shape.

Source: Atlanta Trails

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was probably my biggest high at the end of the year. I was able to give it a lot of attention in the fall, and I feel like we’re in such good shape for the growing season ahead. We still have a ways to go–a lot of fixing to do–but we’re building too.


My plan to add eavestrough to the barn did not happen. I measured, but then I never called any contractors. This task will move to my 2023 list, along with a few other barn projects (which I’m very excited to share in my Home Goals 2023 list).

Living here on this farm is interesting. There’s the house, the barns, the land. I am always building on what’s here, trying to make it better and make it work for our family. My annual home goals help keep me on track and working toward our big vision. I’m really proud of what we accomplished in 2022 and excited to glimpse some of that vision getting closer.

How did 2022 go for you? What was your big home accomplishment last year?

Brush clean-up with a borrowed wood chipper

Back in the spring, I started trimming branches, brush and trees that had sprouted up around the farm. I kept clipping and cutting for weeks. (Matt’s Dad even came out to help with some bigger trees). By the time I stopped, I had two very large piles of brush.

I asked our farmer (who rents our fields) if I could borrow his wood chipper. He was willing to loan it to me, but when I asked if our tractor could run it he laughed at me. So I needed to borrow the chipper and a tractor. Well, the weather shifted soon after that, hay season started, and our farmer and his tractors were busy.

So the piles sat.

I waited until we were well into fall, and I reached out to our farmer again. A giant tractor and an equally giant wood chipper soon arrived.

And I got to work.

The chipper blasted through our brush. It was awesome. Matt’s Dad came over and cut a few more trees, so I added them to my pile and kept going. When I finished one pile, I moved the tractor (slightly terrifying to drive something that big) to the next pile and kept going. It took several days, but finally all the brush was gone.

I spent another day cleaning up and moving the piles of chips. I have one pile on the turnaround where it will be spread on our new flower garden next spring. I have another pile tucked beside the compost bin for wherever else we need it. And I still have half of the load that a local tree service delivered back in the spring. (Comparing piles, I estimate that I chipped another truck load.)

With my focus on no dig gardening, the chips will be useful. I’d much rather make the brush into something useful than burn it. Plus having all of the brush finally cleaned up feels like a big win.

Do you use woodchips in your gardens? Have you ever used a woodchipper? Or driven a big tractor?

Getting the vegetable garden ready for winter

Garden month kicked off in September. Now, in November (two months, but who’s counting?), I am declaring it done.

I am also declaring it a success.

You may recall that by mid-October I had one task left on my to-do list: clean up the vegetable garden.

My focus was on the one quadrant where Ellie and I grew some things this year. That quadrant definitely was my main priority, but two other quadrants also got some attention. That means three quarters of the garden is in pretty good shape for next year.

In our growing quadrant, I laid out planting beds and pathways mulched with woodchips. I had researched the best dimensions for no dig beds, brought my measuring tape outside, laid out one piece of string… and then I just went for it. We ended up with three wide beds. My plan was to seed them with a rye cover crop, but it’s too late in the season, so I covered them with leaves instead. We have ample supply of leaves right now.

I laid down cardboard under as much as I could, but I quickly ran out. Some weeding will be in my future, but hopefully the mulch is thick enough that it will help a bit.

Ellie wanted to plant some garlic (part of her birthday present to me). So we set up another wide planting bed and another mulched pathway in an adjacent quadrant. Then we tarped the rest.

Two quadrants done. Now onto the raised beds around the edge.

These beds hold our asparagus and grapes… and a lot of weeds. I’m embracing no dig, so my clippers got a workout as I chopped the weeds as close to the ground as I could. Around the grapes, I laid down my last stash of cardboard (pizza boxes) and topped them with more woodchips.

There was one last thing on my to-do list and it was outside the garden. So, so many weeds had grown up around the fence. I still don’t have a working weed eater, and the mower can only get so close. So my clippers went to work again, and I edged the outside of our growing quadrant. It didn’t take that long, so I kept going. Then I did a bit more and the whole perimeter was cleared. Next year, I will get the weed eater running and keep the edge tidy.

I was on a roll with my clippers, so I ventured back inside the garden and went to work on another section of raised beds. I managed to clear it. Then the mower handled a third quadrant.

Finally, I stopped. (Though I am coveting bundles of cardboard set out for recycling at local stores and eyeing the leaves that are covering so much of our lawn… I could mulch the rest of the garden and it would be so good!)

As it is now, three quarters of the garden are pretty useable. Since my goal at the start of garden month was one quadrant, we’ll definitely be ahead when spring comes.

To-do list over-achievement rarely happens for me. Does it for you? Are your gardens ready for winter? Have you planted anything this fall?

Garden month… part 2

Last month I declared September garden month. I was cleaning up, wrapping up, and setting up for next spring.

We have now passed the middle of October, and gardening month(s) is continuing.

The photo below shows some progress that has been made.

Ellie and I transplanted about half of the well garden to the turnaround, and I spread top soil.

Transplant well garden

I feel like the turnaround is a great start. The transplanting was a bit haphazard. We didn’t peel back all of the sod on the turnaround. There was no planting scheme. We didn’t get quite everything out of the well garden. But there are bright sides.

The plants in the well garden were so large that each plant split into many other plants, so we filled a large area of the turnaround. I can see where this garden is going, and I’m hopeful that we’ll make good progress next year.

Spread topsoil

The top soil had sat beside Ellie’s treehouse for nearly a year, so getting rid of the pile was a big accomplishment. In the end, it took me two hours with the tractor to spread and level it all. (I’m not very skilled with the loader, so finishing everything in so little time feels like a major win.)

The garage got a little top-up where the backfilling had settled, and then the rest went to the solar trench. It’s been eight years since that trench was dug and the ground has settled very unevenly. The tractor is good at finding the low spots and ends up spinning its wheels as they hover above the ground. Hopefully mowing will be a bit easier next year now that the worst dips are filled.

Clean up vegetable garden

The vegetable garden is the reason garden month is continuing. I pruned the raspberries, but that’s it. I am aiming to layout paths and rows in the quadrant that we planted this year, so that we’re ahead when spring comes. Ellie bought me garlic for my birthday, so we also have to plant that.

Maybe I can say garden month has successfully concluded and vegetable garden month is now beginning.

Is anyone else still gardening? What outside chores are you trying to finish off? Have you done any fall planting?

Garden month kicks-off

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.

Spread topsoil

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

Garden in bloom in June

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.