Archives for posts with tag: chores

Opening Day Posting

A.V. Walters

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We’ve debated it. After all, we don’t want to appear unfriendly to our new neighbors. Ultimately, we decided that we needed to establish our boundaries. The land has been vacant for twenty-five years and others have come to see it as open land, or even as something to which they have a right. In just this past year we’ve had trespassing mushroom pickers, berry pickers, Christian campers (claiming a leasehold from our neighbor! Lord only knows who has boundary problems in that equation), road commission workers and a farmer who finds it more convenient to park his heavy equipment on our land whilst he works his own. Apparently building a house is not enough to telegraph the message that we are here.

On our back property line, new neighbors, who are diligent about posting their own property, are not mindful of ours. They took a page from the farmer, and planted and poisoned to the very edge of their land, using ours for their tractor access and turnaround. They are not farmers; they plant a large “feed plot” to attract deer. I hope they are better hunters than they are gardeners. They inspired our decision to post, but they weren’t the only reason that we broke down and bought “No Hunting, No Trespassing” signs. As any good psychologist will tell you, one needs to establish healthy boundaries.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and we took full advantage to traipse about the property, hiking, surveying and putting up new signs. The signs from twenty-five years ago are long gone. They were sturdy metal signs, but the words have long since faded, they’ve been shot at, torn down, or the trees on which they were posted have toppled. If we were going to do it, yesterday was the day. Today is Opening Day.

For those who are not rural, Opening Day is a big deal. This next couple of weeks marks the official and traditional hunting season. Of course, folks have been hunting now in the various “special seasons” for months. There’s bow season, and there are special permits for farmers protecting crops. There must also be some kind of special “youth” hunting—because the pictures of tykes and their “trophies” have been in the local paper for weeks. Still, the die-hard traditionalists wait for Opening Day. That’s the day they all head off to go to Deer Camp.

Hunting season is real. Just try getting your car fixed this week (or worse, if you needed a plumber!) Though not entirely divided by gender, for the most part, men disappear this time of year. You can still find them at the hardware store, or buying liquor at Bunting’s Market, but nowhere else. Even the schools have attendance problems.

Rick bought the signs last week, while I was gone. He bought “Michigan lingerie,” too—the ubiquitous orange vests that make you visible in the woods. When I was a kid, hunters wore cammo gear. I guess it’s lucky that someone finally did research and determined that the deer are color blind; now the hunters can stop shooting each other. In past years, we’ve stayed out of the woods in season. It was safer that way. Of course, it was cold and snowy, too. This year is an ENSO year (El Nino Southern Oscillation) which should bring rain to California and a warm, mild winter here. We’re unwilling to surrender our time in our woods, so we suit up for safety. One would think it was unnecessary on one’s own land, but then, one wouldn’t expect Christian campers, either. We’re wearing the vests.

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Cammo hasn’t completely gone out of hunter style, you can buy many, many deer camp accessories with the old pattern, wall paper, upholstered chairs, all-terrain vehicles, even refrigerators and freezers, come in the popular, man-cave pattern.

We wanted to be strategic about the signs. Posting the entire property would be time consuming and expensive. We concentrated our efforts on those areas of known (or suspected) incursion. The back line was easy. Our neighbors had posted numerous, bold, NO TRESPASSING signs, facing in our direction. (They’d even put hand-written additions to their signs, “no cross-country skiing, no hiking.” Sheesh!) We simply posted our orange, day-glo signs to the backs of theirs. There’s a comfortable, tit-for-tat in it, that is satisfying.

Another neighbor had joined in the no-cross-country-skiing litany. We posted there, too. We have always welcomed respectful neighborly use. What is it with this antipathy towards a sport that is so light on the land? And, from people driving ATVs and tractors, too! Go figure.

The surprise was on the Northern line. It’s low-lying, marshy with a small creek running through. We didn’t expect anything there, but it was a nice day and we were walking perimeters. Lo and behold—a neighbor on that side had set up his deer blind on the very edge of his property, facing ours! He’d amply chummed the area (his and ours) with apples. It’s a lovely spot and all—but rules are rules, and if you want to hunt on someone else’s land, you ask first. So we posted there, too. It’ll come as an unwelcome surprise, this morning, on Opening Day, when he sees our orange signs.

There was another odd thing. All around his chummed territory, there were a few apples up high, in the trees. These are not apple trees. We wondered, what possible purpose would those apples serve, up high like that? We decided to ask our friend, Fred, hunter extraordinaire. He laughed, “The hunter didn’t put them there. The thieving squirrels did.” Apparently hunters must endure boundary violations, too. The squirrels make off with the free food—decorating the area like some Christmas tableau. I guess we’re all ready now, for Opening Day.

Waiting on Color

A.V. Walters

Color is late this year. Not just here, I’m hearing it everywhere. Back home, where normally it would be finishing up by now, most of the trees are still green. Here we’re a couple of weeks behind–and we’re only seeing the occasional branch, or isolated tree, that has bolted into spectacular. I keep telling myself I’ll blog when I can post great color shots. And then I wait.

It’s not like the weather hasn’t changed. It’s autumn here. Night time temps are dropping into the 40s. I have to harvest the last of my basil and tomatoes, before the first hard frost. I’m staining the cabin–and some days it’s too chilly to stain. Though staining is akin to paint–and should be an improvement–Rick and I have grown attached to the look of cedar logs. They must be stained, to protect from rot and UV damage. Still, we like the natural look and cringe that the work I’m doing makes the cabin look like Lincoln Logs. I’m sure I’ll get enough warm days to get the first coat on–the cooler days I use for prep. Rainy days, I work on the computer. Rick is busy putting in the septic. Those cool power tools, the Kubota and the backhoe, are seeing good use. We’ll get it in, and inspected, just in time for the weather to really turn.

Some folks plan their vacations around color. It’s a risky venture–trying to guess when nature will accommodate. Is it a failure if you head off to the boonies–and have only green to reward you? I suppose an early winter would be worse–or a dry year with only shriveled, brown leaves. Our neck of the woods has recently been voted the best color-drive in the country. I don’t know how such things are judged. (I’ll bet folks back in the Keweenaw, or at the Porcupine Mountains, will think the jig is rigged.) I only know that it will extend our tourist season–which can’t be all bad for the local economy. The wine-tasting vineyards and orchard stands will be happy.

In the meantime, we keep working. It’s a year late, but we have our winter-defendable shell in place. The doors and windows went in last week. Once we get the chimney in, we’ll actually be able to heat it, making for a cozy place to work until it’s ready for us to move in. All things in due time. Next time, color shots!

Baby Steps

A.V. Walters

Looking deceptively innocent.

Looking deceptively innocent.

The fence is complete. After tonight, the last night on which we expect a frost alert, we can put our garden starts outdoors into their permanent homes. We’ve been hauling them out every day (all seventy or so of them) and then hauling them all back in at night. They’ll join the orchard whips, to be protected from the deer by the new fence. If we had any doubts about whether the fence was needed, in the interim, a few deer stepped in to convince us we’re on the right path. We hope the trees will recover.

The bees arrived today. The same fence protects them from the bears. Today we simply placed their bee transport boxes next to their hives. They were too agitated from the trip to pull the frames and place them into the hive bodies—we’ll do it tomorrow. When we pulled the plug from the boxes, the bees from one of the hives poured out in an angry mob. I was afraid they’d swarm (and I’d fail on my first day of beekeeping!) Within an hour they’d settled down and already some of the bees had found the pin cherry trees, blooming right behind the hives. The autumn olives are in bloom, too; their near-tropical fragrance is the perfect bee balm. The bees wasted no time and got right to work. Tomorrow we’ll do the transfer to their permanent homes.

Home, sweet home.

Home, sweet home.

The roof framing crew showed up, too! Soon we’ll have a roof and we can settle in to the summer’s rhythm of finishing the house, minding the garden and the bees. We’re all on the same trajectory here. Things are looking up.

The Morel of the Story…

A.V. Walters–

We found another one! So now you see why morel mushrooms are safer to eat than most. They're so distinct looking, it would be hard to pick them wrong.

We found another one! So now you see why morel mushrooms are safer to eat than most. They’re so distinct looking, it would be hard to pick them wrong.

I am a middle child. What pleases me, may not be what pleases others. Middle children learn to like what they have—and not too visibly—or their older siblings will take that, too.

When I picked the property, I knew that it, too, was an odd duck. The “back forty” is too steep to develop or farm. Only the forest holds those steep, glacial sands to the planet. The front “panhandle” is slightly sloping down to the road, which was the reason for including it in the parcel. The property needed road access. Across the road is the swamp. At the low end, the swamp end, the soil won’t perc, so you cannot build there. It’s lovely bottomland, but it’s also the low spot where one can expect killing frosts. A neighbor planted fruit trees down there, and didn’t understand why, after a few years, they all died. Wet feet. The water table is so high that the poor trees literally drowned

The sellers waxed philosophic about the beauty, the views, the “potential.” They were realtors, had any of that been true, they’d have kept it. Not that there aren’t views, especially up on the hills, especially in the winter, when the leaves are gone. But you cannot build to take advantage of those views because the steep hills (and winter conditions) preclude any possibility of a road or driveway. The property is beautiful—it’s just not marketable for development. Oh, and the sellers told us, there were mushrooms.

Until last year, I’d never seen any mushrooms. Morels have a short season and, though I’d been here in May, I never saw them. Last year, I saw a bunch of them. They were in a plastic bag, dangling from the waistband of a mushroom poacher who was walking our south ridge. We ran the poachers off—but the morels went with them. I didn’t have the fortitude or attitude to demand that they surrender their bounty.

This year we’ve been regularly stalking our slopes, eyes glued to the ground. (So much for the view.) It’s been a dry spring, and cool, so much so that the leaf litter has been crunchy underfoot. Morels like warm and wet. We searched and searched to no avail. My sister, 150 miles south of here, went morel hunting several weekends in a row and found hundreds. She told me I just didn’t know how to look. Over and over again, she said, “You have to get low, they’re tough to see.” They are. And, they are especially difficult to see when they aren’t there.

This past week, we’ve had heavy rains. So, despite the fact that the season is technically over, Rick and I went for a last stroll to check for “shrooms.” We also figured we could harvest some wild leeks, “les ramps” to the gourmet crowd. For best flavor, you harvest them late—just as their leaves yellow. We weren’t twenty steps into the forest when Rick found the first mushroom—right in the middle of the path! We spent an hour or so—poking around, digging ramps and collecting beautiful morels. There weren’t many mushrooms, enough for a wonderful dinner. We had sautéed wild leeks and morels over penne—with thyme, and just enough goat yogurt for creaminess and tang. It was a feast for kings—as good as any served in this foodie-snob restaurant capital.

Maybe we’ll get an extended season. This will guarantee a few more hikes into the back forty, even though we’re really busy. Not bad for a couple of middle kids.

Sorry, no pics. We were so excited that we ate the evidence.

Beer Garden Blues

A.V. Walters

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We started our little garden plants in tiny peat pots, some weeks ago. We’d carefully researched our frost-free date, and back-calculated the time for germination. I’m picky about such things because one of my pet peeves is vegetable starts that are root-bound at planting time. The date came, and went, and the weather forecast still warns of possible frost, so we cannot plant. But, our little sprouts are ready to roll. To harden them off, we’ve been carrying them outside on nice days and back in again every night. It’s like babysitting.

Though I’ve never been an advocate of multiple transplanting (too lazy), this year I’m won over, if only to avoid the dreaded tangle of strangled roots in the bottom of the peat pots. Yes, I know that peat pots can supposedly be just dropped into the hole, but I’ve never done that, because even though the roots can grow through them, I’ve still experienced them causing a strangling ganglia of roots. And yes, I know there’s a whole school of thought that advocates multiple transplants for tomatoes—almost as gardening gospel. I don’t buy it. Like I said, I’m picky.

We’re going away for a short trip. Added to my root-bound anxieties is the knowledge that the tiny peat pots would dry out before our return. They desperately need larger pots that can hold enough moisture to cover our four-day absence. Transplanting is not an option; it’s a necessity. Since I wasn’t planning on it, I don’t have pots, one or two sizes up, in which to put these little sprigs. I had planned on going from peat pots, direct to the buckets dug into the garden. We’re not talking about a handful of vegie starts here; there are a lot of them.

After exhausting all of our yogurt and salsa containers, each washed and punctured with drainage holes, I started scrounging through the recycling bin for additional pots. I scavenged some milk cartons, a cocoa tin, and the plastic trays in which my co-op sells mushrooms. Still, we were short. What was I going to do with all those tomato starts?

I ran out to our local hardware store. They understood. Though they didn’t have a solution. (Their vegetable starts are in the same frost-free-limbo.) We all thought that the cold weather was done. Optimists, I tell ya! They suggested a trip across the county to a nursery/hothouse operation. Alternatively, they shrugged, there’s always 18-ounce, plastic beer cups. Sigh.

I’m not a disposable-cup-kind-of-gal. But, in the quest for environmentally sound solutions, one must weigh the impact of the nearby expedient, versus the drive-around-the-whole-damn-county looking for appropriately sized pots solution. The local grocery had a small stack of beer cups for $3.19. So, I went for it.

The plants will not spend long in their beer cups. I’ll save them for plantings in the future (along with all the punctured yogurt and salsa containers.) Next week, I’m sure they’ll all be ready for the final jump into the garden. I’m watching the weather site like a hawk. Next year, I’m gearing up for floating row covers. It’s either that, or it’s back to the beer cups.

New (to Us) Trailer

A.V. Walters

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There are probably a hundred things that we could have done today—some maybe more important than what we actually tackled. But, there is a special lure to a new toy, though. You just gotta try it out.

We’ve had cut wood sitting in the forest for some weeks now. Not that it matters; the firewood could sit there until fall. The problem was that, though we’ve cut the trails, we did not have a trailer to haul the wood out. I’ve been perusing craigslist for weeks. Trailers are not cheap! Who knew?

It needed to be small, to handle our steep terrain and tight turns. It did not need to be road-worthy. By that I mean that we didn’t need lights or brakes. We will never use this trailer off the property. And, we’re not likely to gather firewood in the dark.

I mentioned sometime back that I’m a bit of a scrounge. Indeed, I may be the Queen of Scrounge. Finally, last week we found the perfect trailer. It’s really junky! For some reason, that makes me love it all the more. The old metal frame is rusty, but it’s sound. The wood is a mess, but that can be replaced. This is probably an old military trailer. I guess we’ll refurbish it—though I kind of like it just as it is. Rick is just as enthused, in a more subdued kind of way.

Today was our first free day where we didn’t have to be doing something else. Rick was itching to try out the trailer. So, we decided to bring in some of the cut wood. Our funny little trailer worked like a champ. We brought in five trailer loads (plus what we could fit in the tractor’s loader.) Naturally, it turned out to be the hottest day so far this year—well into the eighties. It’s not ideal weather for the heavy lifting in this task. Still, off we went. We’re as happy as clams, though a little tired.

Now that so much wood has been brought down to the home site, I guess we’ll have to split and stack it. There’s more up there, but we’ve run out of room at the splitting station. Everything in it’s time…and then, we can go play in the hills again.

At Odds, Comedic… Timing

A.V. Walters

Not so much compost, after all.

Not so much compost, after all.

I drove into town the other day and was amazed that, almost overnight, lawns have turned green. There are swollen buds and tiny baby leaves on the lilacs and flowering quince. The tips of the maples are giving it away, too. In early spring, before they actually leaf out, their buds have a rosy glow to them. Across the valley, the areas with maples are blushing. The cherry orchards are blushing, too. Not blooming, but with a sort of out-of-focus burgundy haze. So, the landscape says spring.

The weather report? That’s another thing, entirely. Day-time temps in the low forties, and snow! I kid you not. They’re calling for snow, up to 2 inches cumulatively, over the next two days. It won’t stick; the ground has already warmed up. The Road Commission has lifted the frost restrictions from secondary roads. But we’ve seen snowflakes this morning already. It makes us wonder if we have our timing right.

Last week we had 45 yards of compost delivered. It sounds like a lot, but it isn’t. It looks like we have a really bad case of gophers. We’ll be digging it in deep to prep for the orchard trees (which should arrive next week.) The rest will be for the garden. We are on the threshold of gardening, but for that snow thing.

Spindly

Spindly

But growing by the day.

But growing by the day.

We’re still perched in a tiny apartment, across from our new digs. There are space and light issues here, mostly because we’re now sharing space with building materials and with hundreds of seedlings in peat pots. We used our seed favorites from Two Rock and have been pleased with a more than generous germination rate. (Oh, no! I’ll have to cull!) The only things that haven’t come poking up through the soil yet are the peppers (and, some questionable crook-neck squash seeds.) Peppers are notoriously picky about seedling temperatures–they like it warmer than we keep the house! I hope they’ll pop up soon. Everything else is up and growing. I certainly hope we didn’t start them too early. Like comedy, in gardening, timing is everything. Hopefully the joke’s not on us.

seedlings1

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It’s snowing out there, right now. There’s a little anxiety, and a lot of hope, in the mix.