Monday, March 23, 2020

The Patio Project

This is what it looked like on our front lawn this morning.  Like a garage sale.  Other than the wheelbarrow and the tools in it, ALL of this stuff had been on the front patio.  Actually there had been more than this.  Lots of pots of dead plants.  Probably my greatest success at gardening is buying plants, not getting them planted, and them dying of neglect.   The patio collection also included a couple of wheelchairs.......don't ask. Thankfully probably the only people to have seen it were Meredith and David.  Tidy people we are not.  

Last week I had weeded the flower bed and rockery at the front of the house.  I'm trying to keep it decent after I went to a lot of work last year to resuscitate it after years of neglect.   So to keep up with the tidy garden, I started cleaning up the dead pots on the patio. Here's a few that were not dead.  The blue pottery planter is a cheery little dose of Spring and Easter.  The succulent planter is slated to be divided up.

You know how you start what seems to be a simple job, and then one thing leads to another and you end up doing waaaay more work than you had planned on.
The little wall between the garden and the patio had originally been a landscape tie with a row of those scallop edged paving stones tucked in behind the tie, to hold the dirt back.  The landscape tie had totally disappeared in one section, and the other piece was half rotted away, and the whole thing needed fixing because the dirt was flowing underneath and onto the patio.  
So I built this little retaining wall.  At one time I would have tackled this wall project with gusto, but I don't have the same enthusiasm these days, so it took a bit to get me going on it.  In case you are wondering, Larry had his own project going, trying to fix part of the loader on the tractor.  Anyway, thankfully we did have the landscape ties on hand, as well as rebar and spikes, so I got it done.  Larry showed up near the end to help to hold the last tie in place, and did some of the pounding in of the spikes.  Those ties were well dried and were hard as all get out, so pre drilling holes was a necessity.

Eventually that end piece will have to be replaced as well, but seemed okay for now.  The tie at the bottom and the scalloped paver was how the other wall used to look, except those pavers are still standing up fairly straight, where as the ones along the rotted section were leaning over at a very jaunty angle.

Here's a picture from last year, you can see the pavers leaning over

Sunday morning we moved all the pots and stuff onto the lawn.
 I swept up the dirt and then did the pressure washing.  There was still dirt there, so that blasted itself all over the side of the house, which I washed as well, about 6 times it seemed.  I've just stepped out of my yellow rain pants and boots here.

So then comes the decisions as to where to put all the 'stuff'.  I moved the $4 garage sale chiminea to the back corner.  In the summer I plant something in the top (the hellebore is just there until I get it into the ground lol.  Hopefully it won't become another victim), and something else in the fire hole.

I switched the bench around, although it will get some rain on it here.  It used to be under the window to the right. More plants on it that need a home.

One day I WILL get some trim done around that front door.  The little lemon cypress trees are going to have some succulents planted around them for now.

Hoping to paint this an eye popping colour one day.  Another garage sale find.

I was happy to get the little fountain back up and running.  It has been silent for too long.  The rocks are ones I picked up when my sister and I spread my mum's ashes, as well as the ones I collected on our kayaking trip out of Crescent Beach last summer.

 This is how things look now.  A bit more minimalist, and one heck of a lot tidier.  I have a feeling more will be added, but my aim is to keep it clean and tidy, at least for a while, LOL!


Two sweet dogs.  Jake at 15 3/4 and Luna at 12 1/4.  Jake had a Vestibular episode  two and a half weeks ago.  He's still a bit wobbly and has a bit of a head tilt to the right.  Other wise he is pretty happy and perky and eating like a horse.  That's okay with me as he had lost some weight and I'm working on getting it back on.  So far he's up 1.5 lbs.

Unfortunately there's still all this stuff left on the lawn, LOL!
Sorting that out and getting it moved is the next job.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Great Blackberry Project.

I'm warning you now, that you are probably going to find this post kind of boring.  At some point last Fall, I decided I was going to tackle the blackberries, which have been growing and spreading for years.  We do cut them back, and Larry tries to mow along them at times, but we never get rid of them, and they are just spreading along more and more fence lines.   I would justify their existence by saying that they give us some income with the fresh berries and the jam made from the those berries that I sell.  But we have waaaaaaay more blackberries than I would ever want to pick.  (Larry has mostly retired from blackberry picking).  

People say how wonderful it is to have our own blackberries.  I joke back that if we left them untouched for 5 years, we'd have 10 acres of nothing but blackberries.  They are very invasive.  Every year they send up new canes.  The canes from the previous year bear fruit and then die.  The three year old canes are dead but still there, and form a support for the new canes.  Those canes can grow to 30' long and more, with side branches nearly as long.  Then when the tip of that cane arches down and touches the ground, it starts to grow roots, and forms a whole new plant up to 10' out from the original root.  Every year when we are picking the fruit on the canes from the previous year, we have to cut back the new canes that are overhanging and covering up the fruit.  But still somehow those rows get wider and wider.

Larry mowed along the face of this row with the tractor.  See that scraggly naked tree (Hawthorn) on the very right.

Here we are looking down the row from the end,  with that Hawthorn at the front.  The weight of all the canes have pulled the tree over.  The row is about 10' wide here, and about as high. 


I've already cut back the first 20'. Note the closest fence post.

I was lucky that when David was visiting at Christmas, he took an interest and cleared about 40' for me.

Nice to be able to hand the work over to someone younger for a while.  You can see that same Hawthorn tree in all the pictures.

Larry came and raked some of the cuttings away from the fence for a while.

That section is all done.  Looking from the west end

And looking west from the east end.  That poor Hawthorn is going to stay.  I'll be glad of the bit of shade that it will throw when I'm working in that garden.

Some of those canes are monsters.  And those thorns..... I had a cane swing down from over head.  It barely hit me, but one of those thorns poked into the vein on my right temple, and I ended up with a black eye.

Tucker, David's dog, had a good time hunting for voles.

Do you think he knows how dirty he is?

Time for a rinse off!

The tools of my trade.  Loppers,  as well as some lovely light Fiskars hedge trimmers gifted to us when two of our customers moved, and some heavy duty leather mitts of Larry's.  At first I was using some of my gardening gloves, but was constantly having to dig the tips of thorns out of my hands.  The mitts are large and clumsy,  but perfect for grabbing those thorny canes and not feeling a thing.  I also added a pair of protective goggles.

This photo below is about 18 years old.  David on his bike (where the heck was his helmet?)  Our riding ring is in the background.  I think by this time I had stopped showing horses, and had started into the dog agility, so I used to have some of that equipment set up in it.  Oh, but Meredith was in horse 4H, so I guess she used it for riding occasionally.  Anyway, that ring is 150' x 70'. It used to be 200' long, and came to the fence post at the bottom/front of the picture.  The hogfuel (chunks of cedar bark) that was the footing in the riding ring had all rotted, so we cleared it out, made the ring smaller, and added sand for the footing.  David is riding on the pile of rotted hogfuel, which eventually became some of the base for the garden there, and is pretty well in the spot where the scaffolding tomato support is now.   And that fence post is the one that I asked you to take note of earlier😉 The Hawthorn tree is out of the picture to the left down that fence line.

The wood rail fence in the old photo is the west end of the ring, which is a big rectangle with a gate at each end.  Notice that all the wood rail fences are clear of blackberries.  When I started the blackberry project, 380' of the wood fence was covered in blackberries, with only 30' and the two gateways being clear.

Here I've cleared that west fence line

And uncovered the old hay rake that was buried in the corner.
Lawn ornament anyone?

A look down that west fence from the north end.  You can just see the corner of the tomato support on the right.

And here is a look at the north fence line of the riding ring, from the field side.  Larry can try mow some of it back with the tractor, but I'm not tackling that.

   I've worked on this job in all sorts of weather, but this sunny day was stunning with the big dramatic clouds in the sky.  

Here's another boring picture when I finished the inside of the south riding ring fence.

And this is where I'm at now.  The south riding ring fence is all clear,  the hayfield fence on the right is cleared on the outside, and just a little bit to remove from the inside of this fence line.  Of course in the background going off to the right, the east fence of the hayfield is a mass of blackberries, as well as the back hayfield in the distance.  This laneway below was a solid mass of blackberries, you could not see anything of the back field.  The cattle didn't even push through it last summer.  It's nice to be able to see a little bit of the back field again from the house.  My goal is to finish off the fence line on the right, and then to clear off the far end of the riding ring in front of the shed.  That will be it for now.  I've made more work though, as now there are fences that need repairing.  Blackberries make good fences, but they just keep getting bigger and wider and messier.

To bring it into perspective, here's a map of our property.  Approx 330 ft wide by 1320 long.  The green squiggles are the fence lines I (and David) have cleared.  Doesn't look like much does it?  The red is blackberries basically untouched.  The aim would be to bring them all under control, and push them back closer to the property line. We shall see.  This year the plan is to keep mowing off the new shoots that will come up where I cut them back.  That's Larry's job.  
It may involve some nagging.😏

People ask my what I'm going to do with all my spare time now that I'm semi retiring.
I just laugh😆


Friday, January 17, 2020


I have another blog post I've been struggling to finish.  One of these days I hope it will be done, but really now it just seems like old news.

Anyway, after monsoon rains we morphed into winter.  It's been a cold week, wind chills of -20 at times.  We are situated such that we are wide open to the east, so when those arctic outflow winds come roaring across the Fraser Valley, we get hit pretty hard.  It was such a relief yesterday when they had ended.  We had some fresh snow yesterday, a bit of sunshine, more snow overnight, and then woke up to this, as seen from the bedroom window.  Blue sky!!

The sun coming up in the southeast.  One of the hummingbird feeders.  I like to leave it out overnight if possible, so that I don't have to get up early.  Although I did exactly that two mornings, as I had brought it in because I wasn't sure that it wouldn't freeze.  We have at least a couple of hummingbirds around.

So pretty this morning.  I'm standing by the south chicken coop

 There's not a lot of protected out door space for them, although they can also go under the coop.

Up until today I'd had a windbreak set up along this east facing side.  All the way along from their little chicken door so they were protected as they made their way to their little leanto on the south side.  I had that all protected too so that they could stay out of the wind.  I took it all down this morning as it wasn't needed, and I wanted them to be able to feel that sunshine.  The ones by the door are pecking at a dish of cooked squash innards and skins.  A little lure to get them to come out.

That's the rest of their field on the left, it extends to those farthest evergreens.  No hens would be tromping down there today.

Larry was taking care of the hens at the north coop, along with Ramona the old sheep.  Back in for breakfast and then the morning dog walk around the property.

Our bush/woodlot is reaching the end of it's life.  Lots of dead and dying trees, well the alders at least, and a few of them have come down lately.  I joked that they are so soaked with water and therefore heavy, and they just can't hold themselves up any longer.

Looking across the back hayfield.  That's yesterday's and last night's new snow on that fence rail.  At least that snow came straight down instead of creating drifts and bare spots.

Yesterday's snowed over snow angel!

I was worried about the rhubarb that was starting to show.  I think it's pretty safe under it's two foot drift.

Today's snow angel.  She has a pin head, lol.  Yesterday I had tried to find a drift deep enough that I could hold myself stiff and just fall back into it.  Couldn't do it, my sense of self preservation just wouldn't let me.