Our own Arbor Day

by Chuck April 5, 2009

We have a nursery just down the hill from us, Wood's Creek Nursery. The couple that run the nursery know their stuff and are willing to take the time to walk around the nursery and show the plants that they have that'll meet your needs. I enjoy purchasing plants there, but it seems like every time I go in there I come out with a tree.

Today we headed down to the nursery to buy some plants to replace the lavender in our front garden. The cold weather this last winter was just too much for it -- first the lavender died and then one of our dogs used it for a bed. It was looking really ratty. We pulled the lavender, but that left the front garden looking bare, so we decided to replace it right away.

Down at the nursery one of the owners took us through about half the greenhouses on the place looking at possible plants. The cold weather over the winter had her spooked too, she would point at a plant and say "That's nice, but mine died this year so you won't be able to grow it" and move on to the next.

Eventually we decided on two varieties of Euonymous -- one Burning Bush and two Emerald and Gold.  

Then Dana said "And a tree. I'd like a flowering cherry." Flowering cherry is getting a disease, our horticulturist replied. "How about a flowering plum?" says Dana, since our flowering plum had come out of the ground a couple of years earlier in a wind storm. "Oh, I have some great trees on sale" came the reply, and off we went.

We did not buy the biggest. We bought the smallest. And it's still pretty darn big, about 12 to 15 feet tall. And then we headed home where I needed to get our new tree into the ground.

I dug a tree-size planting hole -- 6 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep. Not a bad day's work, most days, but I started a 4:30 in the afternoon. No sense waiting until the last minute, after all. The soil under our gardens is horrible, we have about 8 inches of topsoil on top of thick, gooey clay. I shoveled the topsoil off and set it aside, then put the clay in the bucket of the tractor and hauled if off. When the hole was big enough I started mixing the clay soil with our compost to make something that a tree might be happy in, then back-filled the hole.

Once the hole was refilled and tamped down, I dug out a space for the tree's rootball and dropped the tree in. Then I shoveled the topsoil I'd saved back over the new planting, mounding it up in the middle and making a well to water the tree. Then I looked at the tree and realized that not only had I not cut the strings that wrapped it together, I also left the red plastic flag the nursery man had tied on the top for the drive home.

Fortunately it's a young tree, and quite flexible. I pulled it over 'til I could reach the flag, then cut the bindings while it was down. A small tug was all it took to bring it back upright.

I watered it in and cleaned up to tools. And it was only 8:00 when I finished. Just in time to make dinner...

There's still a lot of bare earth in the front garden, but now the anchor plants are in. We can put more understory plants in over the next few months; later this summer the garden should be looking pretty darn good.



Starting the garden

by Chuck March 30, 2009

This morning there was an inch of snow on the ground when we got up.

This afternoon Katie and I planted the first seeds of the year. Katie put some parsley in her garden over by the barn, and I planted spinach and beets in one of my garden boxes. The garden boxes weathered the winter very well, we only had to pull a few weeds to get them ready for spring.

Later on we helped Dana weed the front garden bed. It looks good now, but we need to put more plants in it this year, otherwise weeding it will be too hard.



First planting

by Chuck March 22, 2009

We planted the first plants of the year today. We put two large packages of sweet peas seeds in the mound next to the patio. Last year we put sweet peas there, they were impressive.



Project weekend

by Chuck February 22, 2009

It was a beautiful day on the Hill this weekend, so Dana and I took advantage of the weather to get out and get some stuff done.


On Saturday we finished taking the old chicken coop down. Last weekend we stopped when we had trouble getting the bottom boards out of the ground; this weekend I fired up the tractor and used the bucket to hork the whole works up. Once the boards were out I shoved the whole mess out onto the grass nearby so we could cut the wire off the boards.

Cutting the wire was, literally, a pain. My hands are cut up pretty good by the wire. I really must learn to wear gloves when I'm doing this kind of thing. Dana used a pair of bolt cutters to remove the field fence, then I whacked away with an old axe to remove the chicken wire. Once the wire was done I bundled it up and tossed it onto the pile we made last week.

Once I was done with the coop, Dana suggested that I turn the compost bin with the tractor, as long as it was there. Turning a compost bin would have taken me a week the last time I did it (with a shovel and a wheel barrow). With the tractor it only took about half an hour. I love the composters -- we put weeds and grass clippings and leftovers from the garden in, and then we pull black humus out. It's like magic, only not.

Dana loaded the junk wood into the truck while I turned the compost. When I was done we drove it down to the pasture and tossed it onto the burn pile. That's getting pretty big, I'll need to light it pretty soon, probably late in the spring when it has had time to dry.


I wasn't real motivated to go out and work on Sunday, but I wanted to get the rest of the old coop off the place. I loaded up the truck with the wire and hauled it to the solid waste drop-off in Sultan. They let you drop off recyclable material for free, so that's something anyway.

In the afternoon Dana headed out to weed the front gardens. Not sure what she was thinking... She weeded the bed by the front window while I cleaned up the front yard, then we weeded on the mound on the side of the house together. We ran out of time (and energy) so we only did the side facing the house, but it looks a lot better.

When we were walking between the garden and the compost bin with buckets of weeds we noticed that the strawberries in the strawberry jar mostly survived the winter. We're surprised, what with as cold as it was, but pleased -- we won't need to buy as many to restock this year.



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