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?

Building a chicken run in Illinois

Chickens are on my wishlist for the farm. But part of what’s holding me back from getting them is the coop. I know I need to rebuild the coop and part of that is a secure, covered run for our birds. Sarah in Illinois is nearly a year into chicken farming, and she has recently added a run for her hens. She’s sharing that project today, and also looking ahead to a few more.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I was concerned with keeping my chickens free range. I loved that they could roam the yard, pick all kinds of greens and bugs and worms and have such a healthy diet. However, Blitz was becoming quite a concern for me.

I know very well that it is his natural instinct to chase and catch. I also know that the only way for us to overcome this is for me (and the other members of our family) to work with him constantly, to train him and teach him to leave the chickens alone.

It is still possible for us to achieve this and for Blitz and the chickens to live in peace and harmony, but then Steve and started thinking about how we were going to keep the chickens out of the garden this year and we decided it was time to make a chicken run.

We will not get any awards for our design or our building technique but the chickens are safe from Blitz and our garden is safe from the chickens.

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It wasn’t long after we built our run that I read that Kit over at DIY Diva was building a run for her free range chickens. Unfortunately, she lost a few of her flock before she could get them contained. I am thankful that we only had a very close call with one, and all four are doing well now.

We used part of the existing welded wire fencing to make a run about 8 feet wide and the length of the barn. Then we lined the inside of this fence with chicken wire. To support the roof we used old fence poles that we had laying around. We ran the chicken wire over the top and secured all of our seams by twisting wire ties every few feet.

Like I said, we did not use any advanced carpentry skills. If we ever get a hungry raccoon looking for a meal I don’t think that our fence will do anything but slow him down. I still make sure to close their coop door every night, and I look over the fencing often to make sure there are no signs of something trying to make its way inside.

I don’t recommend our approach for anyone with problems with tougher predators. We did not put anything underground like Kit did. Her approach was much more thorough. It is also possible that we will have to reevaluate everything if we get other predators, but for now it is keeping out one goofy pup.

I also mentioned last time that I was going to set my new goals for my next three months. So here we go. By June 30 I hope to have a few more things accomplished:

1. Light box for my mom.

She has asked me a few times to make her one and has even sent me pins about it, but I haven’t started one yet. So that will be a good project for rainy days or evenings.

A light box is basically a shallow box with a clear or opaque lid. Inside is a light and when you put something that you want to trace on top the light shines through and lets you trace much easier.

My mom loves to sew (mostly quilts) and she could really use one. I have pinned one that I am going to base my design on but I need to talk to mom and make sure these dimensions work for what she needs.

2. Grill lighting

We need to figure out some type of lighting for around our grill on our deck. I say “we” because Steve does most, if not all, of the grilling, so I am going to have him help me decide what will work and look the best. Right now, this is purely just an idea in my head and I have done no research.

3. The Garden

For my third project I am not setting a specific project. I am just going to say “garden.” The list of what needs done is so long that I am going to just group it all together and say that any work that gets done in the garden is on my “to-do” list.

We increased the size of our garden this year to 68 feet by 64 feet. With the rain we have gotten lately, we are behind on getting our potatoes in the ground.

So basically, if I am not working on numbers one and two listed above, I need to be in that garden.

I know what you mean about “garden,” Sarah. I actually think it should be “The Garden.” That’s a huge area you have. Between that, the puppy, the chickens and your other projects, you will definitely be keeping yourself busy. Hopefully the run helps to make at least a couple of things easier. It looks like it should do what you need it to. Good luck with your list.

Garden plans in Illinois

Like me, Sarah in Illinois is also planning and dreaming of her garden. She’s making her list and checking it twice–and then checking it a third time thanks to some help from the family. 

Like Julia, I am planning my garden this year. I wrote this post, and then when Julia mentioned taking a week off I thought that I might have a few things to add.

Well, it turns out I have lots to add.

I have received several plant and seed catalogs. I usually buy many of my plants at a local farm store, but I want to place an order for some of the things that are not found around here.

I made a small list and asked Steve if there was anything he wanted to add to it. My list included a few seeds that we always plant, and I added a few new things to try. Namely, blueberries, tomatillos, pepperoncini peppers and Black Krim tomatoes.

Steve couldn’t think of anything he wanted to add, so I set it aside and went out to clean the chicken coop. I came back in and Steve and his daughter had all of my catalogs out and were making a list. And I mean, they were making a LIST. Many items were new varieties of vegetables that we have grown before but there are new plans for the garden and surrounding yard this year.

We will be adding 2 cherry trees, 3 blueberry bushes and 4 grape vines. We also threw in 50 new strawberry plants and 2 holly trees for the yard. This wasn’t completely a shock to me since Steve and I have wanted to add a fruit arbor to our yard for a while. I just did not know that it was going to be this year.

At our house I am the planner, thinker and researcher. Steve is more likely to throw things together and see how it works out. It is a good combination for us. But that means I am frantically researching how, when and where to plant these trees and vines and bushes before they arrive and Steve is likely to just start digging when they show up. Hopefully, I will have a rough sketch of where we will put them soon.

Another way that Steve is helping to prepare for the garden is that he tuned up our tiller. He also fixed a couple things that have never worked for us on it. It is a hand-me-down piece of equipment and it has worked as-is, but it is nice that he has fixed a couple of the features on it. All we are waiting for is for the temperatures to rise a little and the garden to dry up a little.

Last weekend I planted some lettuce inside. I just felt I needed to start something growing around here. And in a short time I should have some lettuce to add to our salads!

My next post I will be updating how I did on my “one project a month” goal. I have made some progress as I mentioned. But I have also had setbacks.

I came home to this mess.

Blitz had knocked the little pot of brown paint (for my Grandma’s statue) off the workbench and all over him and the floor. Thankfully it was paint and not stain like I had originally thought. That would have been a nightmare to clean off of him and the floor.

Are you planning to plant anything new this year? Do you have any advice for growing any of the new items we ordered? Have you had any help from your pet on a project?

Way to go, Sarah. Your plans (and Steve’s) sound great. Perhaps we can share grape tips. I’m also curious to hear how your holly does. I love the idea of holly, but have been pretty much unsuccessful with two different plans at two different houses (including this one where I killed an established bush).

Vegetable garden plans

Garden in winter at sunrise

We are officially in the month of spring. That means spring break–and that’s just what I’m going to be doing next week. I’m going to be taking a bit of time to hang out at the farm and hang out with my family. It’s going to be a week off from the blog as well. I’ll be back after the break.

The month of spring also means that garden season is dawning–even here in Canada. The green in the photo above is the winter rye I planted back in the fall. I did not expect it to be this green at this time of year, but it’s a very encouraging way to start the year.

I already talked about my plan to add blackberries and some more grapes this year. The order went in to the nursery at the start of the week.

So now I’m thinking about the rest of the garden.

As a refresher, we have a roughly 2,500 square foot garden. It is round, so our strategy is to divide it into quadrants. Raised beds run around the perimeter.

After a lot of work over the last few years to finish the fence, build the raised beds, build trellises, run a waterlineconstruct and hang the gate–and clear the garden in the first place–I’m looking forward to being able to focus on plants and soil this year.

I have a few themes that are guiding my plans.

Space planning

Last year I said we were going to use the whole garden. But I lied.

We only used three quarters of it. And the third quarter was filled with watermelons and weeds that we let run wild, so that was pretty much a cheat.

Watermelon vines growing in the garden

I realized as the summer progressed, that all of our plants could have used a little more elbow room.

We have a huge garden. There’s absolutely no need to cram things in. So this year, the plan is to give our plants lots of space and use the whole garden.

The easiest way to do that is to designate specific quadrants for specific crops. Specifically, tomatoes and potatoes will each get their own quarters.

Garden plan 2017

Crop rotation

The tomato and potato placement leads to my other priority for this year, crop rotation. Different plants draw different nutrients from the soil. Rotation is important to ensure the soil has a chance to recover.

From what I’ve read, potatoes and tomatoes are not the best of friends–as in you shouldn’t plant tomatoes where you grew potatoes the year before (and vice versa). My plan is to plant them in opposite quadrants so that we can rotate them (literally) around the garden each year and have a gap year between when potatoes and tomatoes grow in the same spot. (Does that make sense?)

Harvesting red potatoes

I’ve moved plants around each year but not considered rotation in a thoughtful, strategic, multi-year way.

To make the rotation work, the potatoes will grow in the same spot this year that they were in last year.

A few other things are staying in same place, more out of laziness than any strategy. The squash trellis was a success last year, and I want to use it again. However, it’s a bit of a monster (16 feet long by about 7 feet tall and about six feet wide). The prospect of moving it is daunting. The best place for the sunflowers is the south side where the sun is the strongest. I don’t think one year of repeats for the squash and the sunflowers will be too tragic.

Sunflowers on the weathered wood fence

Weed control

Oh weeds. Between 2,500 square feet of soil and my day job, I do not believe it’s possible for me to keep up with weeding the garden. Or at least I’m not willing to put in the time required.

So plan B. Mulch. Deep, deep mulch.

Straw mulch in the vegetable garden

I think I should be able to buy (or receive) some old bales of straw from the farmer who does our fields. Old bales that are already on their way to compost would be perfect.

The mulch will (hopefully) not only keep down the weeds, but as it composts it will add nutrients back into the soil.

Plant choice

The big lesson you hear from a lot of gardeners is grow what you eat. If you ask Matt, he’ll say potatoes (the Kennebecs were awesome), peppers (I’d appreciate some red bell peppers and Matt’s particularly interested in jalapenos) and onions.

For me, the fun of gardening is still trying unusual and new things. That means probably planting a row of our purple potatoes again (we have some of our Russian Blues left that we should be able to use as seed potatoes). Trying some different tomatoes (probably not our giant Sicilian Saucers again). And experimenting with eggplant, broccoli or cauliflower for something completely new.

Sicilian Saucer tomatoes

Oh and less zucchini. Again. We downsized to only a half a dozen plants last year and that was still way too many.

I’m excited for warm weather, longer days and the return of the vegetable garden. Until that arrives, I’m excited for a little pre-season vacation. I’ll be back in a week.

Do you have any garden plans yet this year? Any tips for things to grow? How about rotation or weed control ideas?

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.

Making a compost enclosure

Like us here in Canada, Sarah has had some unusual warm winter weather in Illinois. She took advantage of the spring-like temperatures recently to do some building outdoors. Her compost enclosure is something I’ve considered for our farm, so I enjoy seeing how she tackled it.

Last weekend we had unseasonably warm temperatures. When the forecast said that we were supposed to hit 70F (21C–thanks for the Celsius translation, Sarah!) on Sunday I decided I had to do something outside. One of the projects that I wanted to work on was my compost pile. At that point, I literally had a pile.

Basically, I just threw my scraps and yard waste into a corner of the chicken’s pen. The chickens helped me by scratching and turning over the pile, but pretty much we just had a mess.

I have a pile of wood scraps in my barn so I had plenty of supplies to make something to corral my compost.

I started by taking a 2×4 and cutting it into four 42 inch pieces for the corners. I found some old scraps of wood siding to use as the slats. I cut the slats for the sides at 30 inches and the slats for the front and back at the 42 inches.

I first assembled the two sides. I laid them on the floor and used screws to attach the slats to the corner pieces.

I set both sides next to each other so that the spacing between the slats would be the same. (Blitz photobomb!)

Once I had the two sides done, I just had to connect them with slats for the front and back. I didn’t necessarily have to add slats to the front but it did help make the structure more stable.

Also, since I knew that the chickens would help me turn the compost over, having front slats also helps keep the compost inside.

Once I finished I was very happy with the outcome.

However, Steve pointed out something very important. Compost can get very hot when it is breaking down. The chances of my pile catching fire are very slim, but there is no need to risk anything, so I moved the pile away from the barn.

Now, all I have to do is add more scraps to the pile, turn it over occasionally and wait.

Compost is “black gold” for gardeners, so I am excited to turn food scraps and yard waste into a nutritious fertilizer for my plants.

This will be so helpful for your garden, Sarah. The enclosure seems like a good way to keep the pile tidy. Gardening season is coming soon!

Vegetable garden additions – Blackberries and more grapes

Vegetable garden covered in snow

I don’t know as gardening season ever really stops on the farm. Sure we’re not out in the garden every day like during the warmer weather (hello, -20 degree windchill and ice storm). But we’re thinking about the next season, monitoring our stores of vegetables and preserves, and enjoying the produce (curried butternut squash soup, yum).

But come February, I feel like it’s more socially acceptable to discuss gardening. I mean, we’re just 40 days away from spring, people. It’s comin’.

My plans for the garden this year are relatively modest compared to last year. Between our raised beds, trellises, hose and gate, the infrastructure is all in place.

The quadrant layout is working for us. So now I’m just thinking about how to fill those quadrants. (Reminder, here was last year’s plan).

Round garden plan for 2016

Top on my list is adding a few more perennials this year, and I’d love your input on what would work best.

You may remember that I tried to domesticate some wild black raspberries, and ended up ripping them out when they ran wild. So I have a row of raspberry trellis that’s empty. My established raspberries reproduce prolifically, so it would be easy to transplant some new canes into the empty row. But I’d love to try something different.

I’m come across Arapahoe blackberries. They’re supposed to be thornless, self-supporting (so not floppy like the wild raspberries), reasonably hardy for the Canadian climate and with smaller seeds.

Seed catalogues

The other addition I’m considering is more grapes. I’m a bit hesitant because I know nothing about grapes, and I’m not sure if the grapes I bought last year are going to be alive in the spring.

I bought eight vines last year, four red (Somerset) and four purple (Sovereign Coronation). In my mind, I’ve always considered 12–an even dozen–a nice number of grapes. Plus, I feel like four green would round out my collection.

Lakemont are supposed to be seedless, store well (my catalogue says “actually improves in cold storage”) and a “superior” table grape.

Anyone know anything about Lakemont or Arapahoes? Any other suggestions of berries or grapes to add to our garden?

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?

Looking back at Home Goals 2016

I have to be honest. I’m on the side that is glad to see the end of 2016. It was not my favourite year.

But there were some bright points. And before I look too far ahead into 2017, I want to take a look back at my Home Goals 2016.

I really enjoy laying these goals out at the start of every year. And I find them very helpful throughout the year to keep me on track.

This year was kind of a mix. We accomplished a lot, and I am really happy with what I can cross off the list. However, some little finishing details continue to hang around, and I couldn’t summon the motivation to finish them.

Here’s my review.

Start to plan for the big reno

I started last year by sharing some of the floorplans that we’ve been playing around with for our long term vision for this house. Through that process, I think we landed on a plan that will work best for us.

We also met with a contractor, got his input on the plans and got some very rough numbers from him about how much things will cost.

We also realized that we can easily break our plans–and our budget–down into several phases. I like knowing that we don’t have to do everything and spend all the money all at once.

The big reno, even just phase one, is likely still a little ways away, but it seems more real now that we have some drawings and numbers.

Guest room

Robin's egg blue country guest room

You know I love crossing a whole room off my list, and the guest room has been one of my favourite projects so far.

A few family members visited us in 2016, and they all liked it too. My one nephew said it was like a bed and breakfast–the kid knows how to make his aunt happy.

This is a project where one niggly finishing detail is still hanging around. I stripped the paint off the old metal bedframe way back in the summer, but I never repainted it. So this will have to go on the list for 2017.

Finish the basement

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

The basement was our very first project when we moved to the farm, but four years later I still had some niggly finishing details hanging around. The biggest detail was Matt’s bathroom, which is alllll done–and so, so pretty.

The basement ended up being the focus of an unexpected reno this year when we had to waterproof the foundation in a few areas. It was tough to redo already redone areas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we don’t have any water seep in this spring.

While I had planned to focus on just a few small things, after redrywalling the areas that were waterproofed, I also built a new closet in the laundry room. Closets were a theme of the basement. We added a tonne of new shelves to the cold cellar and built shelves in the closet under the stairs. These areas have given us a lot of extra storage. It was great to dig out the Christmas decorations without digging through a pile of boxes first.

So there was some good productivity.

But on the niggly details front, I continue to struggle with art to finish off the basement. I know what I want and I even have frames. I just haven’t taken the time to find the pieces I’m looking for. I did make 16 personalized Scrabble tiles for the pingpong room. Having each of our family member’s initials is a touch that I really like. The rest of the art will come in 2017. I promise!

Furniture

90s bookcases as china cabinet

I didn’t buy a whole lot of new furniture this year, but what I did has been on the list for a loooong time.

Finding a third matching cabinet for the dining room was definitely the thrifting score of the year. I think it will be hard to top that one.

A close second, though, is finding a china cabinet for my office. I’ve been looking for a pretty specific piece for a long time. This hunt was a lesson in persistence and the importance of carrying furniture measurements with you everywhere.

The two other pieces of furniture on my list for 2016–making a new coffee table for the living room and reupholstering a slipper chair for my office–will carry into 2017.

Vegetable garden

Vegetable garden

The garden was a huge project this year. We invested a lot of time in it, and we saw the results.

In fact, everything that I wanted to do on my original Home Goals 2016 list, save for planting rhubarb, we did.

2016 was about a lot of the infrastructure for the garden. We finally hung the gate, put in curbs around the outside edge, built raised beds, built trellises for raspberries, tomatoes and squash, planted some perennials like grapes and asparagus, tried our first cover crop of winter rye, experimented with a deep mulch of straw, and last but absolutely not least ran a waterline out to the garden.

This year’s harvest was again fabulous. I feel like we’re starting to settle into our gardening groove.

And thanks to all of the work that we did in 2016, I feel like 2017 will get off to a much faster start and we can focus on growing, not building, the garden.

Outdoor clean-up

Burned lawn

When I look at the farm, I feel like there’s so much that needs to be tidied up. In adding outdoor clean-up to my list last year, I knew I was going to have to pick a spot.

However, when I reflect on the last year, I realize that we actually ended up doing better than just one single spot. We cleaned up a scrap lumber pile behind the barn and another big one at the edge of our centre field. We picked up rocks, so I’m able to mow along the north side of the house, although I would still like to add some more topsoil and pick up a couple of patio slabs.

And the biggest area is the one pictured above on the south side of the garden, which was cleared for the first time this year–a controlled burn is the way to go–and then mowed by Matt all year.

There’s still a lot more clean-up to go, but I have to remind myself that we have a 129-acre property and we have made good progress.

And that’s a good word to sum up 2016 as a whole. Progress.

I feel good about what we accomplished, and, even better, I continue to enjoy the process of making the farm and the house ours.

What were your accomplishments in 2016?

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.)