a machete is a girl’s best friend

where's the homestead?

Have I bought forest or jungle?

It’s been more than a month since my last visit and the undergrowth has taken over. I got halfway down the trail to the homestead site and… completely lost the trail. A sea of some kind of crop confronted me, waist high and swarming with ticks. Fortunately I had invested in a machete before making the trip and so I was able to cut myself a path through this jungle. I’d never wielded a machete before, but when faced with the choice of wading through tick-infested weeds or walking a nice mown path to one’s cow barn, one quickly learns the way of the machete.

a way in

As I hacked my way through, all sorts of interesting flora and fauna were revealed. First some wild strawberries, hiding in the grass. The fruit was round, bright red and ready, though not very sweet. Still, that firms up one plant identification! (If you remember, I thought I recognised strawberry leaves back in March.) The fauna was much more of a surprise. I was swinging my machete, and oh!


turtle in the grass

So nice to see this turtle (probably an eastern box turtle) – it made up for all the ticks. And even if it turns out to be a snapping turtle and will one day get big and vicious, today he/she was very calm. In fact the little beast stuck around for quite a while as I admired it, photographed it (sorry about the slightly wobbly picture quality – my arms were so tired from swinging the machete), slashed my way past it and on to Base Camp.


base camp established at the cow barn

You can see the trusty machete leaning against a tree to the left of my pink backpack. The green bucket contains my (by now very decomposing) compost… oh no, I was NOT going to waste that compost.

In the relatively tick-free environment of Base Camp, I ate lunch, and wondered whether to call it a day. But where would I put the compost if I left now? No, onwards and into the homestead site… where I managed to uncover half the fire circle. Note the crop around it, but mostly grass inside.


fire circle, grass circle

By now I was getting really tired, but that compost needed to go somewhere. I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to machete my way round to the official compost bin. Instead, I decided to clear a path to the tyres (still waiting for me to plant them up with herbs) and leave the compost in one of them.


clear to the tyres, but then...

And that is where I left it. I need to go back in a day or two and cut away more undergrowth. I think I’ll also plant out my tomato and pepper plants in the raised (tyre) beds. Some herbs can go in with them too. That’s a huge simplification of the original plan, but I think it will be more manageable… especially given the time I’ll need to spend taming the vegetation.

Posted in Homesteading, raised beds | Tagged , | 2 Comments

dogwoods and post holes

dogwood blossom

On this visit (April 17) I had an overwhelming urge, before I tackled anything else, to wander about in the forest and find dogwoods in bloom. They are one of my favourite trees, as I think I’ve mentioned, but I’d also like to feature a blossoming dogwood in a story I’m writing, so I really *needed* to see one. (More than I needed to start making holes for fence posts!) Further south they seem to come into blossom more or less with the redbuds, which is why I assumed I had none a couple of weeks back. But they were everywhere on the drive up to the land this time, including the edges of my neighbours’ properties, so I was hopeful. In fact, I could actually see one with its gorgeous, white-petaled flowers from the homestead site, but it turned out to be just over the border on my neighbour’s land. I didn’t have to walk too far, though, before I found many more, and on the right side of the border.

looking up at white blossom

In my last post, I remarked on how green everything was looking. In the time since then, with all the warmth and rain we’ve had, nature has run riot. The homestead site is now covered with a thick herby, weedy carpet. I need to tame it somehow – mow it? Shoots of the crop that filled it last September (whatever that was) are coming up again, self-seeded. They need to come out. I had a moment of feeling completely overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, but the place is just *so* beautiful as it is, that that didn’t last too long. It will all get done. Somehow.

weed carpet and a butterfly

The wildlife is more in evidence too. There were plenty of bees last week, but I saw at least three different kinds of butterfly this time (zoom in to the pic above for one of them – wish I was better at identifying things), as well as two lizards. The lizard basking in the sun on the Old Man was a dashing, bright blue mottled creature, but too quick for me to catch on film.

The main task of the week was to start making holes for the fence posts. The boundary string I measured out last time was all still there – clearly none of the 90-odd tornadoes that swept across NC the day before had moved so much as a leaf in our particular neighbourhood. But there had been plenty of rain: perfect conditions for hammering stakes in to make holes. The job was almost easy! I made holes at 15′ intervals for two sides of the fence before running out of water. (Hot day… had to stop on the drive home at a middle-of-nowhere convenience store for pink lemonade, which was an adventure in itself.) Until the real fence posts arrive, I’ve stuck dead branches into the newly made holes… If you look carefully enough in the picture below, you should be able to make out the line of deadwood fence posts.

deadwood fence posts

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blossom and new leaves

an eastern redbud in blossom, swarming with bees

What a difference two weeks make! Yesterday I made my first trip back to the land since we kidnapped the artist. In the intervening time, Winter had returned for a bit with cold and storms and icy rain. Perhaps we’ve finally moved on now… the temperature was back into the 80s today. Not quite so warm yesterday, thankfully. Pink blossom is now visible in my woodland, and the bright green of new leaves. I haven’t found any dogwoods or wisteria yet – perhaps they are there, waiting to be discovered. I’ll plant dogwoods anyhow. One of my favourite trees, and native here!

I arrived at about lunchtime, and ate a sandwich sitting on one of the breeze blocks of my fire circle, admiring all the new leaves. The ground is also now covered in a variety of plants – the wild garlic is rampant, but there’s something purple-flowered that could be from the mint family, and, here and there, blue violets. (I’m certain about the violets and the garlic; for the rest, if I tried to identify them with the book I have, this blog would never get written. More homework.) But I am happy to report that the bird feeder is still there, and needed replenishing! And how lush and green it is all starting to look (probably thanks in this picture, at least in part, to something invasive, but we’ll overlook that detail for now):

spring green

This week’s task was to plot out the perimeter of the deer fence.  I took along 600 ft of garden twine with the idea that I could stake that out, and leave it there till I’m ready to go back and dig holes for the fence posts. It took a couple of hours of unwinding, placing, calculating, recalculating, rewinding, replotting… My ideal boundaries (which would have included some of the old buildings within the fence, as well as the area I’m now fondly thinking of as my future orchard) had to be substantially redrawn. Half a dozen times. But in the end I got my pieces of twine to meet. I’ll have to take out one or two small saplings, and cut my way through (or move somehow) a couple of large fallen trees. But I think it’s doable.

No pictures of the twine boundary, but here is the Old Man bursting into new leaf. Good for him!

old man in spring green


Posted in spring, wildflowers | Tagged | 2 Comments