Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Same old, same old

Not much new and exciting has happened in the last week with our yard projects. We keep plugging along with the wood and brush clean up. Scott is going to take down the old dog house today if the kids cooperate. We are hoping to get the rest of the little trees cut down soon so we can have the guys come back with the stump grinder so I can get the lilies and day lilies moved that I uncovered from leaves and sticks yesterday. Than after that is done we can start working up the area for the veggie garden and get the soil tested and all that good stuff. Working today is going to be hard, because I know I'll just want to get home and get outside.

The composting is going ok. Adin still loves doing it, but it just really seems to be a slower process than I thought. Not much has changed in the things that I have put in there. Maybe by fall it will be ready. I hope! Well... off to work I go.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Composting Starter

I have now come up with a plan to make a turning compost barrel out of an old bear bait barrel. I just have to wait until the garden is laid out so I will know where to put the posts in the ground; until then I have made a mini one to keep outside the back door by the kitchen.

I took a 5 gallon bucket with lid and drilled a few small holes in the bottom for drainage and about 15 vertical lines of 3-4 holes each going all the way around the sides of the bucket. I then started collecting items to put into it. We have tons of dried leaves (which is great) and I put up a list in the kitchen of compostable items (coffee grounds, veggie and fruit remnants, juices from canned fruits and veggies, Kleenex, stuff like that) and an ice cream bucket in the sink to collect through out the day. Than at the end of each day I'll take it out to the big bucket and add it too it, put the cover on it and give it a few good shakes. So far Adin has been my composting buddy ever since we had to add his little pumpkin that he got from Grandma and Grandpa for Halloween. Yep that is right - it is March and he got it in October and it lasted this long. Elle and Lizzy's are still looking great. Crazy stuff. Adin is excited that his old pumpkin will turn into good stuff (as he puts it) to grow new pumpkins. Pretty cute. The bucket I used is black to help absorb heat and speed up the process. I look forward to seeing how long it will take for this stuff to fully compost. Such a fun new adventure.

Scott and I also spent the evening last night loading up and hauling away some of the brush from the trees out into the woods to make more habitat for animals. Hopefully something will enjoy the brush piles as a new home.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Clean-up Begins

This morning the kids and I headed outside bright and early. We filled in one of the holes that was left from the posts that Scott and I pulled out last night. Than I started loading up up the siding that I pulled off the shed into the 4-Wheeler trailer. After an hour the kids got hungry again, so here we are inside at 9:15 for them to eat their 2nd breakfast (they didn't really eat much the first time.) Hopefully later today I'll get a lot more done. I'm almost ready to empty the trailer and start on load #2.

Later.... Today has had a lot of progress. The entire out building/shed has been dismantled, 2 loads of ick wood have been taken to the burn pile and Scott got 3 of the big oaks that we had taken down around the house cut up. Now we just have to do a lot of brush and log hauling to get the back yard cleaned up. One step closer to the garden. Yeah! Adin keeps asking when we get to plant things. :)

Oh and the kids and I also got in a few good rounds of Red Light/Green Light in this afternoon along with some rolling down the hill in the front yard, a nice long walk through the woods collecting pine cones. Great afternoon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Demo

So Scott started the hard demo on this gross little building, and I got to finish it. :) After I dug some more holes around the gate poles yesterday afternoon (Scott has to help me pull them out - it is a 2 person job), I tackled the walls of the out building.

First I started using the crowbar to take off the half log siding on one side, but then I decided that using the maul would be much less time consuming and a ton more fun. So after a lot of pounding and swinging of that maul way above my head in some spots and a pretty bruised up finger, all the siding was off.

We want to save the 2x4's so I couldn't just pound away on those, so back to the crowbar. Most of them were pretty easy to just pull down once I got the top support boards off. Now we just have to clean up the mess and bust apart the flooring. There must have been carpenter ants or something that likes to eat woods in the walls, because there are a couple of cool looking 2x4's from one of the front corners. I don't think that we'll be using either of those spongy boards again. Poor Maya (our Chessy) has been fervently trying to get the red squirrels and chipmunks that have been running between the old out building and the now piles of lumber and junk to the old dog house about 8 feet away. She is bound and determined to get them, maybe in her younger years, but not now.

It is nice to be able to see the valley from the kitchen window. I know that it won't always be unobstructed like that, but when we put the new shed in next year it will be down about 2-3 feet after we cut into and level that part of the hill, so we should still be able to see a good part of the valley.

It was different to come home today and see the trees down. It really opens up our back yard, even though it looks strange. We now have a ton of work cutting up those big trees (which all had heart rot is some stage). We should have a good amount of firewood for a couple of years. Now just to get the outdoor wood stove next year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Out Building

I came home from work yesterday to find that Scott had started taking down the out building. This has been a dirty and gross project. We did find some fun things behind the old dog house that had been build in the building. On the shelves there was a box of white tiles which are still in good shape and some left over plaster casts of stone that we think were from behind our gas wood stove in our living room. The rest of the things we found were mice and the remnants of their homes. YUCK! So far Scott has the front wall and the roof off and the interior stuff torn out. We are going to try and save some of the 2x4's for other projects.

We used the winch on the 4wheeler to pull out some of the small trees and brush around the building for better access. Worked pretty well. Adin was my helper for the winch controls. The back yard is looking so much better already.

Tomorrow we are going to have a tree service come in and take down a few trees that are close to the house and garage so we don't have to worry about them falling on the buildings. Then Scott and I will cut up the trees and move the wood. Once that is all done we are going to grind up the stumps and keep working on the landscaping and my prep of my Lily bed. I'm so excited to get that Lily bed worked up and moved when it gets a bit warmer so they are out of the way for the Vegetable Garden installation.

After lunch I'm going to head out and try and get a couple more gate posts that are cemented in the ground dug up. That is if the weather stays dry.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Perfect Weekend

The best part of this weekend was celebrating Adin's 4th Birthday. He was so excited to finally be 4. It is hard to imagine that it has been that long and to think back to these days 4 years ago, the weather was much different. Instead of almost 60 degree weather we were having a snow storm with severely icy roads. Not fun. But this weekend was beautiful. Adin, Lizzy and Elle played outside almost all day yesterday with their cousins Tristan and Dylan.

There was lots of dirt digging and throwing by the kids and fence taking down by Scott and I with the help of Greta and Nico. Our once fully fenced backyard is no longer which will help Scott (who is now the proud owner of a new chainsaw) start cutting down the trees that we need to have removed. We also discovered that the little valley behind our house is full of Maple trees that next year we are going to tap and make syrup. We missed the flowing tap by a week or so this year.

We are still contemplating where to put the garden and how to go about the actual landscaping, but we are getting closer. Greta and I sat down and figured out exactly what we are going to put in our gardens and what seed packs we can split. She is going to do the ordering and then we'll get things started that need that bit of head start in the house and go from there. It was just so great to actually be outside yesterday and doing some physical work towards our projects and not just the planning. Maybe spring has actually started. Keep the beautiful weather coming.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Marking Trees

Today I'm heading to the hardware store to pick up some spray paint to mark the trees that are OK for Scott to take down (that way he won't get in trouble for taking down trees I want to keep) once he gets his chainsaw.  I wish that the sun were out, but hey, it is still warm and if we get some rain in the next couple of days, more snow will be gone.  Back later.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hello Sun - Goodbye Snow!

The last couple of days it has been so hard to not develop spring fever. I don't think that I have ever had it this bad before. Yikes! The warm temps and the snow melting away is so wonderful. Scott and I were wandering around our yard the other day while the kids made "snow castles", trying to figure out the trees that need to come down in a few weeks. I am sad at the thought that some big old oaks have to come down, but they are too close to the house and have some serious heart rot running through them. It is better to take them down now, before they take down our house and I'm going to be planting some other trees around the yard later. We want some fun flowering trees like a couple crab apples and such.

There are 2 oaks right next to a stepped retaining wall hosta bed, that once they are down and the stumps ground up, I'm going to move my lily bed from the old house and put it there and I'll probably move the lily/day lily bed at the new how there also to make room for the veggie garden. There is also a hydrangea bed with about 4 or 5 nice plants in it and that bed is staying put. Those things are so hard to get going that I'm not going to disturb them seeing as how they are doing well right where they are. I can't wait to see what color they are... couldn't really tell when we moved in last fall.

The last few days I've been doing some research on Root cellars. I needed to know what the characteristics are that make for a good one and the things that we need to do to ours to get it ready. We were thinking about pouring concrete over the sand floor so it would be less messy, but now I know that if I do that (which I can) the natural humidity that a dirt floor provides will be gone, so maybe we'll just cover the sand with gravel. I also discovered that the temp in our cellar is pretty spot on. It has stayed about 38-40 degrees this week which is pretty good. Now we just need to work on the vent system and make sure that works and put together some shelving. Also I think that the door/entrance needs some work (maybe a bit of smoothing out). To get into our root cellar you have to crawl through an opening on your hands and knees that has been cut through the block wall (really rough) and then jump down about 2.5 to 3 feet to the floor. There is a good amount of work to be done down there, but the backbone is good and I love the fact that you don't have to go outside to get to it, just down to the basement and through the small door. That will be nice in the middle of the winter when it is freezing cold here.

I talked to my Grandma the other day to see if I could borrow her big cooker that she has always used for canning and she said yes. So excited. She also told me that she has a ton of quart jars that I can have. Major score, now I just have to go down there and crawl around in her crawl space. Yeah for Grandma's. Now just to get some great recipes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Garden Contents

After much contemplation we have come up with a tentative list of what we are going to plant. This may change after we get the soil tested and after I can see how well I can get the garden soil worked up with the right components, but it's a start.

The winners are: Sunflowers and Tomatoes (for Adin), Sugar Snap Peas (for Scott), Green Peppers, Carrots, Parsley, Cilantro, Green Beans, Cucumbers (I'm going to try making Grandma Delores' Mustard Pickles - Yum), Chives and Onions, Asparagus, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, a Pumpkin or 2, Squash, Watermelon, Broccoli, Lettuce and Spinach. Now just to decide what varieties of each of these. My sister and I will be splitting some seed packs so it will be a joint decision for some of these. I'm always open to suggestions on what kinds taste the best seeing as how I'm a novice at this.

I also want to build some sort of an arch over the door into the garden to plant some climbing flowers. Hopefully that will be an easy project in comparison to the rest of the garden. After doing some online research I'm pretty sure that we are going to do raised beds. That way we won't be walking on our "growing soil" or dirt (Just had to throw that in for my mom, we always have that argument - mostly in joking. I like to say dirt just to bug her.) and we'll have more control of the texture and contents of the soil for each bed to better accommodate each type of planting. Also there will be more defined walking paths for the kids and hopefully it will lead to less stepped on plants in their beginning stages.

With the weather being so wonderful (in the 40's) it really gets me excited to get out and dig in the dirt. :) Unfortunately we still have multiple feet of snow in some areas of our yard so I'm still just digging in the snow. Yuck!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

First Setback

After further inspection of our "Out Building," it is out! The building is structurally unsound according to Scott and I can see where he is coming from. Walls, floor and roof all have places that are rotted out and it would be more of a pain to fix than to start over. However... money the way it is, the chicken coop and outdoor wood furnace will now be a 2011 project. Bummer on our first setback to the project. The garden is going to happen this summer along with the landscaping prep for the wood stove shed/chicken coop/greenhouse. All of which are super exciting. I do think that tackling our garden this year will be all we can handle with the kids being 4 and under and Scott and I both working a lot.

I have been trying to figure out what to plant, how to lay things out and how big the garden should be. Right now we are down to 2 options: 30' x 30' or 40' x 20'. Both of which I have been told are too big for a first garden and realistically it depends on what will happen when we get into the tree cutting to provide more sun and the landscaping to provide a flat spot of land. Our property is rolling hills and our house sits on top of one of those small hills.

This is also deer country, so protecting our garden from those deer will be very important. When we bought the house, part of the back yard was fenced in for the previous owner's dogs. This winter it has been nice letting Maya, our elderly Chessy, out into a back yard where she can't catch a sent and track after what ever it was all over the yard, but we will be moving that fence to protect the garden (Maya will be fine without it.) That will be one expense that we won't have. :)

It has been fun asking the kids what they want to plant in the garden. Adin has insisted on sunflowers for the birds as well as tomatoes. (Which is funny, because he doesn't like fresh tomatoes, but he does love spaghetti and I plan on canning a lot of it this year.) The Girls really didn't have much to add at this point just as long as they get to "help!" Could be an interesting summer with 2 two year olds and a 4 year old "helping", than again they really could be a lot of help. I'll guess we'll find out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Our Roots - The Begining

In October my husband and I bought our first house and with that came more expenses and a surprise root cellar. Along with our 3 children we moved into this wonderful house on 20 ac and over the winter we began talking about finding ways to save money, live a more self-sufficient life and to strengthen our close knit family even more. We decided that we are going to plant a fabulous garden (veggies - this place already has great flower gardens, which will also be expanded.) We also have a small out building in our back yard which I want to turn into a chicken coop. At the rate our 3 kids eat eggs, this will be a fun and beneficial project.
My husband grew up hunting and fishing and to this day those activities are a big part of who he is and now who our family is. I grew up on a dairy farm, milking and fieldwork and on occasion had a garden, but I have been told by my mother that both my sister and I hated gardening. Now my sister has beautiful flower and vegetable gardens and I am very excited to join the vegetable garden world and have loved flower gardens for a long time now.

That is where this blog comes into play.... why not document the planning, the progress, the set-backs and everything in-between. So here is to the next 3 months of planning and prep and the future of our family experiences.