Archives for posts with tag: erosion control

Terraced North Side

There are a couple of big projects we’ve been working to finish before the snow flies. December has been cold, but dry. We’re all starting to ask one another, “Where’s the snow?” In its absence, there’s been the opportunity to extend the outdoor chore period. Some of the work is slow–because it’s cold, but progress is progress.

Terraced South Side

I’ve been striving to complete our erosion control project along the side walls of the barn, where the roof edges drain. Rick did the terracing and my job has been to plant groundcover, and then mulch the area with pine needles harvested from the forest. Some of it (where the soil is not so good) has an under-layer of shredded leaf mulch. (Thanks to the suggestion of Deb Weyrich-Cody.) It’s tedious work, and I can only go for a half day at a time in the cold. The mind wanders while planting approximately 4,600 little sprigs (but who’s counting?) I finished today–with the last of the pine needle mulch. We’re ready for whatever winter brings.

Peeking Through

As for Rick, ever since we started keeping bees, he has wanted to bring them in out of the elements for the harshest times of the winter. There’s a “sweet spot” with bees, between 37 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit–in which they remain in their semi-dormant phase–but consume fewer resources. Also, winter cold doesn’t kill the bees, but wild fluctuations of temperature are hard on them–and moisture can kill. Of course, before we could offer winter shelter, first we had to build a barn.

Our barn is a “bank barn,” meaning that it is partially buried into the hillside (“banked in”) so that each of the two levels has ground level access. At the back of the lower level, it is buried about nine feet deep, which gives it some warmth from the ground. This lower level of the barn is not heated, but, except in the very coldest weather, maintains a pretty constant 40 degrees. And it never gets really cold, regardless what the weather throws at us.

Rick’s end-of-season task was to reorganize the barn so that there was room along the back wall for the bees. It took over a week to move everything around and organize. One of the issues with a lot of storage space is that it leaves room for inefficiencies. Not any more. He stacked all the lumber for our various planned projects, built racks for garden tools and forest tools. He even cleared enough space to put the truck in the barn. Who knew?

Then he built a wheeled dolly to hold the hives. The tractor could have delivered them on a pallet to the back of the barn, but it would have filled the area with diesel fumes. Not good for the bees. So the solution was the hive dolly.

Today was bee moving day. It went so smoothly, it was almost anti-climatic. We slid the three hives off their hive stands directly onto the bee dolly. Rick strapped them down, carefully backed them down the hill and gently lowered them onto the apron of the barn entrance. From there, he just pushed the whole assembly to the back wall.

First hive loaded.

Strapping them tightly.

Backing down the hill!

Despite the care, the bees didn’t take kindly to the move. We could hear them buzzing furiously behind the wire gate keeping them in. But they quieted down quickly once the action was over.

Winter digs.

The sweet spot.

It was a long day, with a flurry of outdoor chores, making ready. Because, tomorrow, we have an overdue appointment with winter.

It’s been a bit of a hiatus from blogging. It’s not post-election anxiety. It’s not Covid. It’s hard labor. We’ve taken advantage of unseasonable warm temperatures to address erosion issues around the barn. This involves grading, terracing, and planting. We’re finally raising the grade to pre-construction levels, bringing the back end of the grade up four or five feet, (which includes burying the root cellar.) It’s an enormous amount of work. It involves moving huge piles of sand (which we dug out for the foundation) back, up the hill, and around the barn. This earthen berm that we’re re-locating is about eight feet high, by thirty-five feet long, by twenty feet across. Thank God for the Kubota.

Oddly, hard labor is a relief from current events.

We’re nearly finished the worst areas of erosion–and the weather is running out on us. We may have to do the last bit next spring. I’m hoping to get ground-cover transplanted onto those areas we’ve graded before the snow flies. We’re using periwinkle (aka creeping myrtle, aka vinca minor) as the ground cover, because its sturdy root structure can really hold a slope. Oh, and because it was free. I’ve been collecting and hoarding it for several years. For illustration of the scale of this, it’s one sprig of ground cover every four to six inches, covering a newly terraced area about 12 feet wide and 40 feet long. After planting, I carefully mulch it with pine needles, making sure that each of the little plants has its leaves above the mulch, and can see light. Of course, I first have to harvest the pine needles from the forest (because pine needles add acid to the soils, lock together to prevent erosion, dissuade the cats from digging, … and they’re free.) At this point, I’m looking forward to shoveling snow.

To take a break from grading, we took a walk in the woods the other day. We noted that recent high winds had taken down two big trees, right off the trail, an ash, and a beech. So, yesterday, we harvested those trees–cutting them into sixteen inch pieces (from the base of the trunk, up to three three inch diameter size.) The top bits we scatter in the forest to break down. These trees both exceeded eighteen inches in diameter at the base–so it ended up being a lot of firewood. Even we were surprised that it topped out at over two trailer loads. We got it all stacked and covered, just as darkness fell. This is what we do for fun, as a break from the grading work. This will be next year’s fuel, since we’ve already harvested all we need for this season. Since we harvest only deadfall, we don’t have to “season” our firewood for a year or more–to get it dry before burning. That makes us a little lazy about bringing it in in a timely way. Our ultimate goal is to get a year or two ahead of the game.

Today, it’s raining, hard and steady. The erosion control is working. And we are taking a well-earned break.