Finding our waterfront

Remember how clearing the pond shore was my one and only outdoor home goal for this year? And how at the mid-year report I said it wasn’t going to happen?

It’s happening, people.

Our keen 17-year-old nephew who loves being at the farm had a day off from his summer job, and he wanted to learn how to drive the tractor. If you’re driving the tractor, you might as well learn how to use the front end loader, the new rotary cutter and tow the trailer.

So I went through the basics of a hydrostatic transmission and what levers did what. We hooked on the rotary cutter and I pointed him at the pond.

Here’s how things were looking after last weekend’s mowing of the meadow. I swear there’s water on the other side of all of that grass and brush.

Overgrown brush on the shore of the pond

I was super impressed with our nephew. He was calm and confident and careful.

Mowing the overgrown grass around the pond

Mowing the overgrown grass around the pond

Loading firewood with the front end loader

A morning of work cleared about half the shore on the east side. The remaining thickets are hiding all kinds of logs and stumps. So we have more work to do, and I need to set Matt loose with his chainsaw, but the progress is awesome.

This vantage point still doesn’t show you much of the water, but I swear it’s there.

Clearing overgrown brush on the shore of the pond

Clearing overgrown brush on the shore of the pond

This deep in the summer, the pond is a little mucky, but it’s still my favourite part on the property.

Pond in the summer

Pond in the summer

Our nephew totally made my summer.

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?

On thin ice

I think this hole in the ice is a sign that someone had a bad day.

Breaking through the ice

But someone else didn’t take the warning.

“What do you mean the ice isn’t safe?”

Dog on thin ice

“My foot’s cold… and wet.”

At the edge of the pond

(And just in case you’re worried, the pond is pretty shallow here, so when Bax did actually break through, he was able to climb out without any trouble. Although he was a little miffed that the ground cracked and he ended up wet. I also had him on his long lead so he couldn’t wander too far.)

Waiting for ice to arrive

We’re two weeks away from New Year’s Day. Every year that we’ve been at the farm, I’ve been able to go skating on the pond on New Year’s.

Unless we get a serious cold snap for Christmas, I don’t think skating’s going to be on the activity list.

The surface of the pond is more about reflections these days than it is about ice.

Pond on a foggy fall afternoon

The water is trickling in the creek.

Creek running over mossy stones

The deer paths around the shore are very, very squishy–not even close to frozen–mud.

Muddy deer trail

The reeds are still green.

Green reeds in the pond

A thirsty puppy even has a place to get a drink.

Baxter drinking from the creek

2016 is coming no matter what. Skating? I’m not so sure.

What’s the weather like where you are? How are you planning to celebrate New Year’s? Do you have any traditions you’re looking forward to?

An evening walk along the pond trail

The nature of farm living is that it’s tough work. Last night, after a day full of hard labour, my skin was stinging from scrapes, thorn pricks and a pretty decent sunburn.

My muscles and grip strength were gone. At one point, Matt had said, “Pull!” as we were stringing the fence in the garden. And at my response–“I’ve got nothing left!”–he just laughed.

It was after 5 o’clock, and the dog still needed his afternoon walk–a daunting prospect.

But the nature of farm living is that there’s also an incredible setting, right in our backyard, so Baxter and I headed for the pond trail.

Matt cut this trail for us last year. Some of our hard work earlier earlier in the day had been  sharpening the mower blades (with help from my parents), attaching the deck to the tractor and mowing the grass.

Sharpening lawn mower blads

Attaching the mower deck to the tractor

In addition to doing the lawn, Matt did a pass over the trail, so Bax and I had a lovely space to hike.

We walked alongside the lilac hedge that leads from the house down to the water.

Lilac hedge

Purple lilac

We turned left and followed the trail along the shore towards one of our old apple trees. This tree is a showstopper this year. Absolutely covered in blossoms.

Apple tree in blossom

Apple blossoms

From there, the trail heads into the small pasture behind the barn, following the fence at the edge of the marsh.

Baxter walking along the pond trail

Baxter walking along the pond trail

It loops around past the manure pile and then up to my favourite tree.

My favourite maple tree

We took a detour by the garden to check out the new fence.

Chain link fenc stapled to a wood fence

And as I headed to house, Baxter decided he was going to stay out for awhile yet. He laid down beside the garden and gazed back down the trail and across the farm.

Baxter laying in the grass

The view is fields and forest and trees and marsh, and it’s worth any scrapes, pricks, burns, aches, hard work and exhaustion.

The payoff–this farm–is exactly where I want to be.

New Year’s Day skate

Ice storms are so 2013. For 2014, ice is going to be fun. We started on Jan. 1 with a New Year’s Day skate on the pond.

Ice skates on a frozen pond

Well, I was the only one who actually skated. Matt and Baxter just trotted around the ice rather than gliding.

Baxter and Matt walking on the frozen pond

Walking was safer than skating in some areas. Although the ice is mostly smooth, frozen coyote tracks here and there are tripping hazards.

Coyote tracks frozen in the ice

A few stumbles aside, a skate on my own pond was a fun way to kick off the year. This is how I’ll take my ice from now on, please… at least for the next month or so. In July I’ll probably want it cubed and in a glass. Although with the temperatures we’re having right now, the pond may stay frozen solid well into summer #polarvortex.

How did you spend New Year’s Day?

Freeze up

We’re at the time of the year when temperatures are rising and falling day-to-day. A week ago, the thermometre crept into double digits (up to 50º for those tuned to the Fahrenheit scale). This week, we’re having wind chills in negative double digits (down to 0º Fahreneheit). As a result, the view of the pond is constantly changing.

One day it looks like this.
Ice forming on a pond

The next day, the darkness of the water has expanded and the thin coating of ice around the edges has completely receded.

Our pond doesn’t like to freeze. It is helped in its quest to stay liquid by the creek that is constantly running fresh flowing water. Even here though, the cold takes hold and ice forms.

Ice covered grasses over a flowing creek

After a couple of days of cold temperatures and snow flurries, the darkness of the water is gone, replaced by ice.

Fuzzy cattails on the shore of a frozen pond

We’re not quite ready for skating yet, but we’re getting there.

What’s the weather like where you are? Does your thermometre count in Celsius or Fahrenheit? Anyone follow the Kelvin scale?

Landscaping… the long list

I cannot bring myself to write a list of everything I want to do for renovations in the house, but for some reason I have no problem doing a master list for the landscaping outside.

Landscaping plan

Alright, I’ll admit it. That’s a little overwhelming.

There’s obviously a lot to be done, so it’s a matter of prioritizing what part of our 129 acres we want to focus on. This year, it’s the residential area.

Layout of the residential section of the property

And just to make things a little clearer than the animation above, here’s the plan for this year.

Landscaping plan for this year

That’s manageable, right? As you saw at the beginning of the week, we’ve already made some progress on the turn around, the flowerbeds and the pond shore. Maybe by the end of the growing season, we’ll have the property in shape.

The long term plan will take who knows how long.

Long term landscaping plan

I’ve decided my goal when it comes to outside work is to transition from landscaping to gardening. Weeding flowerbeds is much more manageable than building them.

How do you handle renovations and landscaping at your house? Do you write everything down or just keep a mental list? What are you hoping to accomplish this summer?

Death by landscaping

I am dead.

I’ve been working on a lovely introduction to this post referencing the Secret Garden and the joy of tending a neglected garden. But it’s not coming together for me, and I lack the mental power to make it work. Because I am dead.

You never heard any of the characters from the Secret Garden say, “I am dead. This garden has killed me.” Let’s be honest here, Ben probably said it, but Frances Hodgson Burnett did not include it in her story of love, childhood and horticulture.

In my story of love, adulthood, responsibility, country living and horticulture, landscaping has started.

The turn around has gone from mountain goat terrain to a blank slate, thanks mostly to our farmer with his heavy equipment.

Making a garden on our turnaround

I’ve weeded one flowerbed and my mother-in-law tackled two more. (All of the plant pots were left by the last owners. The plants are still alive, so I’ll be planting them soon on the blank slate of the turn around).

Weeding a flower garden

My father-in-law trimmed some of the trees and stumps around the pond. We still have a ways to go before we can actually mow the shore, but I’ve staked out the new fire pit, and we have lots of wood ready to burn.

Broken tree branch

Matt, my Dad and I dismantled one of our biggest rock piles on the property–and it only took us four hours.

Cleaning up a rock pile

I started building a new flower garden around the well head. And this is when I died.

Rock edged flower garden around a well head

Last year’s landscaping efforts were limited to some very cursory grass cutting. The property was unkempt when we bought it, and our neglect over the past year while we focused on the basement reno made it worse.

The amount of work required to bring a garden back after years and years of neglect is never mentioned in the Secret Garden. Sure there’s a bit of pruning and weeding, but mostly it’s romance and roses.

In the category of things get worse before they get better, even our efforts at clean up have led to more mess. Drilling the new well and trenching new waterlines destroyed one established flowerbed and left lumpy piles of very hard dirt in its place. Burning brush and scrap lumber as we’ve tried to pick up around the property resulted a mountain of ash and a half scorched spruce tree.

Landscaping was at the top of the list on my home goals for this year, and I will get a handle on the situation outside, even if it kills me.