It’s been a crazy summer. First there was the infestation of cicadas which brought with them lots of clean up from dead cicadas covering every surface daily to the damage they left behind. Then came the storms. The flooding was bad and took its toll on both the gardens and the property itself. This was just a few miles from me.
I was lucky in that for once the sump pumps worked like a charm and I had no further flooding in the basement, yes, I have two sump pumps in my basement to handle the water problems that result from living on a steep hill and improperly installed gutters and bad landscaping design.
While raised beds tend to do better for me in heavy rainy periods I learned the hard way that building them on hills results in too much run off into the lower sections. I lost tomato plants and it looked like my carrot patch was going to be lost but it’s perking back up. I’ve got my fingers crossed the storms have passed for the season. On the other hand other plants are thriving. For now I dug trenches between the rows and at the end of each bed to protect the plants, once the growing season is over I’ll change the slope of the soil to prevent this from happening again.
The cucumbers loved the extra rain
This bed is positioned under the shade of the silver maple tree that sits in the middle of my property which has provided just enough shade to allow my leafy lettuces to thrive even during the extreme heat.
I’ve been clipping away and enjoying salads most days which has been a real treat after losing all my lettuce last year.
Back to the storm damage. A lot of branches came down from the various trees on the property which I dragged into the driveway to trim down into sizes better fit to fill more raised beds. I had hardly begun to drag branches out of the yard when the neighbor boy showed up wanting to help. My granddaughter was here and had to show she has muscles too.
She had so much fun and was disappointed when the yard was finally cleared of fallen branches.
My son is currently laid off from his job and came down to spend a week helping me with jobs a bit too hard for me to accomplish before starting a job rehabbing a house for his brother to make enough money to hold him over until called back to work.
He began by trimming trees for me, this was the largest and soon enough the neighbor boy showed up wanting to help me cut this down to build more hugelkultur raised beds.
His brother realized he had been gone a while and showed up to see if he was visiting me. When he saw I had a branch to cut he joined in. Between them the job was done quickly.
I let the lawn care people go. It was pricey but I was willing to pay if it meant all the grass would be cut keeping the weeds at bay. Unfortunately, they cut down plants I asked them not to and left the weeds to take hold in other areas. I decided to purchase an electric mower I could handle and see if I could do it all myself.
I barely started when the neighbor boy showed up and literally begged to take over.
I love the mower but wish there was a way to adjust the handle to make it easier for me to reach. As you can see from the above photo it’s high enough for a child to have to reach, so mowing from a chair is a bit harder. He wasn’t the only one who wanted to try out my mower and soon enough his grandmother took over the mowing, much to her grandson’s dismay. 🙂
I finally managed to get all the blocks out of the yard where they had been used to create a fire pit and my son finished the retaining wall on the west side of the drive to match the east side.
I’ve decided to only stack the blocks two high to avoid making the neighbor below feel as if they are walled in. They have a very small yard, most of their property is taken up by the house leaving them with a yard a fraction of the size of my driveway.
I still need a few more blocks to finish up, but what you see was all free and found in various places around the property. This section will be filled in and used to create a pollinator garden. This angle sort of shows you the steepness of the hill leading to the neighbors below. I’m toying around with simply using cement blocks which aren’t hard to find free for the back side but I have a bit of guilt when I think of what the neighbors below will be stuck seeing.
The poles you see on the right side of the photo mark the property line between the two houses which gives me a nice wide section to use for the garden bed. I’ll put small flowering trees and lots of flowers here. I don’t have all the plants picked out yet but I know a few such as lambs ears that must go in this. Lambs ears are one of my favorite plants because besides being attractive are a favorite of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
The outside of the house is starting to come along. I collected all the two by four lumber both found on the property and left behind by the first man hired to build my ramps and repair the deck. I was able to find enough to build a good amount of the rails around the deck and one of the ramps. I now know how many boards I need to purchase to complete the job.
With the help of one of my neighbors I was able to finish painting the one wall of the house I began last summer when I was testing the color. I love how it’s looking. Just comparing the difference between the white trim against the brown compared to the dingy yellow the contrast really pops.
I did hire a painter, a man who works for my son, to paint the house but he’s booked up so until he’s free I’ve been working my way around the house getting everything I can reach. My neighbor came to the realization that she likes painting and showed up to help me get a bit higher than my arms can reach.
In return much of the cedar boards, stacked in the photo above, we pulled out from under the shed will be built into a low fence for her yard.
On rainy days I tackled some mending. My granddaughter loves her stretchy leggings but she wears holes in the knees long before she outgrows them. I’ve shown you before how I cut shapes from fabric scraps to make patches, which she loves. But now she’s decided to express a bit of her own creativity into the patches. She handed me a pair of pants the end of July and asked if I would fix these too. When I agreed she then informed me this time she wanted a flower with a black middle. She kept telling me the middle had to be black so I decided she needed to make the patch.
Using a scrap of white fabric I was going to build on it and even had fabric taken from a pair of her father’s dress pants to use for the middle when she asked about using markers. This is what she came up with.
She’s thrilled with the outcome and loves having patches on her clothes because it makes her clothing unique from everyone else. 🙂
When it’s not raining I’m still working on other areas of the yard. After two summers in a row having my one honey berry bush mowed down, and now losing the other to cicadas, I decided to enclose them. Using more scrap lumber I built this three sided bed to protect them not only from a mower (which shouldn’t be a problem now that I’ve taken over that responsibility) but also from children playing.
This bed, directly behind the shed, is 124 inches long so I figure I can get one male and two female honeyberry (haskap) bushes in here. I laid cardboard in the bottom then filled it with branches and the dry leaves from the silver maple. I’ve been topping that off with grass clippings and then will finally add soil for planting.
There is a funny story about this bed’s frame. I built the frame on my deck then realized I didn’t know how to get it into the yard as it was too heavy to lift. I figured I could drag it but the angle of the ramp wouldn’t allow me to take it down the ramp. I then lowered it down the stairs into the driveway and proceeded to pull it up the ramp. Ya, that didn’t work too well and soon I had it in a position in which I couldn’t get down the ramp into the drive. I was trapped and needed help. I called my neighbor and asked her if her son was home and if he could help me. He ran right over with a big grin thrilled I thought of him when I ran into trouble. I explained how I could hold one end if he could carry the other he shrugged and dragged the entire thing by himself. Some days I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have great neighbors.
On the north side of the shed I’ve started layering to prepare for another bed.
Being the north side this gets all shade. I will be planting quinoa here as it prefers shade and doesn’t like temperatures over 90 degrees. Since we average only eight or nine days of 90 degrees or higher all season I’m pretty confident the quinoa will thrive here.I’ll be planting the quinoa next sprint, wish me luck.
I’ve also been busy leveling areas of the property so I can lay brick pavers to make it less likely I’ll get stuck in the yard while tending the garden beds, which I have done all too many times. This area is the base of the ramp and how I enter the yard.
I need to remove two tree branches yet but already by lowering the dirt and grass I can reach the strawberry bed now from all angles. This is going to take me a while to convert the grassy paths to paved paths that are level on my own but after receiving quotes from professionals I don’t care how long it takes I’m determined to do it without hiring pros. I’m pretty sure I’ll have little ones showing up to help which will be welcome.
I’ve also received more free cardboard that is going to good use as weed block around my surviving fruit trees.
I’m really getting tired of weeding. The driveway is a never ending job of weeding. Luckily I have neighbor kids who seem to love helping.
Within minutes of my regular helper showing up two more children joined in. They said weeding was fun because they were finding lots of worms, which they then carried to the garden beds once I told them how helpful worms were to the gardener. My fruit trees received a few handfuls of worms as well.
What do the kids want to do when they get bored of working here? They ask if they can play in the dirt. This bed was built using huge logs and I knew the top soil I filled it with would settle so I didn’t plant in it this summer. I set them free to dig and play all they wanted. Once they were done the soil was lower by about a foot, more in some places. It’s been topped off and is ready to plant in the spring.
One afternoon while I was weeding the driveway, yet again, my neighbor called over and asked if I wanted a picnic table, if not she was putting it out for trash pick up. You know me too well, if you knew I took it, I did and a few minutes later she was back with a plant holder, I took that too. I asked her if she just wanted me to fix the picnic table and return it to her knowing she has grandchildren there regularly. She didn’t want it back as her grandchildren only like it to jump off of.
The middle photo is the original condition of the child’s picnic table. The wood was really dry and a few boards warped but it was solid. I used Rustoleum spray paint to seal the wood and give it a few more years of use. My grandchildren love it and take their lunch out to the table on the days they visit.
The plant hanger needed painted as well so I used the leftover Rustoleum paint and for now added three pots I had sitting around. I’d like to find three matching pots though. It added just the right amount of interest to the tailing where the landing for the ramps is.
My deck is still full of wood I’m working with to build more raised beds, and a bench to create a window seat inside, but today my body informed me it had had enough. Besides laundry I’m taking a day off. Once I’ve edited the rest of my photos I’ll share more that’s been going on around Chez Field.