spring… and strength

The former definitely starting to happen, but strength in short supply!

Now let me be quite clear: I like being a girl; I enjoy walking into a D.I.Y store, like I did yesterday, feeling quite feminine (reddish lipstick and all), but fully intending to walk out with an armload of mean-looking tools. Yesterday’s necessary item was a utility knife capable of cutting through the sidewalls of a tractor tyre (or three). So I asked the nice man where I could find the utility knives, and he was more than happy to show me. When I grabbed the baddest, meanest looking knife of the bunch and explained what I wanted to do with it, I then got the raised eyebrows, and, “You have got somebody helping you with that, haven’t you?!” Well… Best thing to do, I’ve found, is smile and nod, pay for the thing and leave. Quickly.

And that brings me to the actual task of, you know, cutting the side wall out of a tractor tyre. Or three. The sort of job you’d probably give to a guy, if you had a spare one just hanging around. But there isn’t one handy at the moment, so… I warmed up to the task by cutting the sidewall out of a normal car-sized tyre, and, voilà!, the beginnings of a compost bin!

inverted the sawn-off inner wall for the beginnings of a lid!

Flushed with that success, I thought I’d have a go at one of the tractor tyres. I chose the one that already seemed to be quite weathered and managed to get the knife blade in. There then began the business of what can best be described as sawing my way around the tyre. I managed it, with much effort, and a dawning realization that I really *need* to be doing more yoga… I’ve been way stronger than this, bring on those sun salutations! Those handstands, those downward dogs!

half-way round, with knife embedded...

But of course I still couldn’t remove the central part, with its metal inner ring, because all of that is quite firmly connected to the side wall on the other side. So… I heaved the tyre over, and began the much more laborious process (because this side wasn’t so weathered) of hacking the side wall off side 2. Began it, but too tiring to finish today. Did I mention there were three of these things? Whose idea was it to make raised beds anyway??

Instead I took a rest and went searching for signs of spring. Spring, and old grain sacks.

three sacks of... grain sacks

I spent quite a satisfying half hour or so playing hunt-the-old-grain-sack. I think these have been dumped here over the years by hunters, spreading feed to attract deer. There were enough to fill three large sacks – I’ll keep the ones that were still fairly intact, in case they can be reused for something else.

And after the scavenger hunt, the pictures… They’re both a celebration of approaching spring, and homework.

those bunches of leaves have produced a flower

One of them is a daffodil type, obviously, but I’d like to put names to the white-flowered plant that is carpeting most of the homestead site, and the tree that has grown its own deer-repellent spikes!

small white flowers to identify

spiky tree

Good news on the tree that was dripping last week (I’m calling him The Old Man) – not dripping today!

Posted in raised beds, spring, wildflowers | Leave a comment

where to start?

Where do you start, when there’s everything to do? I’ll start with some pictures…

the homestead site

This is the homestead site – about half an acre of relatively clear space. From the little I’ve read about permaculture so far, what I should do first is nothing: just watch and wait to see what happens naturally. But I also know that I’d like to start growing my own veg, and eating it this year. The seeds are already starting to arrive… Lovely corn and beans, squash, zucchini, tomatoes: the three sisters survival pack from seed living. So one task I’d set myself for Sunday was to prepare some raised beds. Not that I’ll grow everything in raised beds, but…

discarded old tires

… I have a number of old tyres lurking around the site. Here are two tractor tyres as I found them – one of them is somehow leaning against a sapling; and there’s a third not visible in this shot. They’re all about 4.5′ in external diameter, and while that’s not huge, it’s good enough for raised bed frames, I reckon.

tyres in a new place

These guys are fairly heavy, so I rolled them only as far as I needed to get them into a sunny, open spot. Here they are, in a triskell arrangement, just in front of the only old building still sporting some kind of roof. (Where it overhangs on the outside, I’ve started a wood pile!) Two of the tyres still have a metal inner ring, which bothered me a bit, until I found a site with great advice on using tyres in your garden. (I *love* the internet!) Next week I’ll cut the sidewalls out of these tyres, and finish clearing the ground inside them. For now, it’s partially cleared with some old grain sacks (again found on site) covering the earth to help prohibit new growth.

I also did a bit more clearing up because I kept noticing more and more old bottles and cans, and – weird! – groups of socks knotted together. What’s that about? I’m also a little worried about one of the oldest trees on the site. It’s a beautiful old tree – I’m attached to it already – but it’s dripping water. I can’t tell what kind of tree it is yet without leaves to help identify it, but it may have insect damage… small holes in the area where it’s dripping. And yes, they look D-shaped, so I’m really worried that it might have some borer beetle infestation.

close up of the dripping tree

There are three or four holes visible here if you look carefully (Click on the picture to see full size, and then you can probably zoom in further). I couldn’t capture the dripping in photos, or even that this section of the tree is damp all the way to the ground. But it is. I’ll keep an eye on this. If anyone has any idea what might be happening, please leave a comment.

lovely old tree

And here’s a pic of the whole tree. The ladder is part of an old hunter’s stand, but makes me think of tree houses!

Posted in Homesteading, Permaculture, recycle, vegetable garden | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

winter “homestead”

I had pictures, but I accidentally deleted them. Damn. So I’ll have to give you a picture in words. I drove up to the land yesterday afternoon, my tiny car packed with stuff – spade, fork, picnic, tent (just in case I felt the urge to stay), wine to celebrate the occasion. We’ve had heavy rain the last couple of days, so I was interested to see what state the earth was in after that. The track from the road to the homestead was quite muddy – lots of lichens too, which I remember from earlier visits, but also small saplings growing up in the middle of it. Those I hadn’t noticed back in November, but I guess they were starting then. I’ll have to take them out soon (loppers are on the list).

When I walked into the homestead area, it was the bleakest I’ve seen it yet. The tall plants, all vibrant greens and yellows, that were filling it in September have all died back now; just the odd dry stalk standing up here and there. But as I looked more carefully, there’s life springing up in places. The wild garlic (or are they wild onions?) are growing in little clumps on the south side of the ‘stead, and what I take to be wildflower bulbs have pushed up bunches of leaves in the area where the track opens out into the farmstead. I look forward to seeing what they are when I go back, but already I think these are the first signs of spring!

My first walk around the homestead made me realize how much there is to do. It was warm enough to sit in the sun, but I couldn’t be still for very long. I measured the site, and reckon that the whole area could be comfortably enclosed by a 150′ x 150’ deer fence. A half acre of fencing might be affordable, and it’s a large enough perimeter, so I’m hoping I won’t actually notice it’s there. The earth was still soft and muddy on the north side of the old cow barn, probably because that side is shadier. I couldn’t decide where to put the veg beds on this first viewing, but I think I *will* use the three old tractor tyres for raised beds. I suppose my next job, while I’m saving up for the deer fence, will be to start clearing some ground. I left my new spade and fork, covered with an old grain sack, in the only old building that still has some kind of roof.

I did a couple of other things before heading home again. The first was to circle round the site a few times (well, three to be precise) picking up any rubbish. There wasn’t much, only about a carrier bag’s worth of old bottles and bits of plastic. Then I lit a candle where those spring flowers are just coming up, took out some little cakes I’d brought, poured a glass of wine, and celebrated Imbolc in a quiet, small way. Here’s to new beginnings, and a peaceful, fruitful, joyful new year!

Posted in festivals, Homesteading, vegetable garden | Tagged , , | Leave a comment