Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Garden

Yes, Russell, the blog is finally up! The excavators finished the stone wall for the garden area and along the side of the house. Most of the very large stones have been used up, but you can see a pile of small-ish rocks on the uphill side of this shot. These left-overs are all move-able by us, except for one enormous boulder that even the excavator had trouble with. We aren't sure what to do with that one yet. Maybe we will support it, dig out the ground underneath it, and then drop it into a hole. No doubt we have about 6 inches of dirt under it before we hit bedrock. :) We had the soil tested, and Andy is laying some lyme down to cut down on the natural acidity.
Here you can see the lawn coming in a bit thicker, as well as the stone wall that has been added to the SE corner of the house.
More lyme. One of these stones, about where Ethan is standing, has a visible bore hole from when the blasting guys drilled into the bedrock to plant the explosives. Pretty cool stuff.
We raked in the lyme, and then got busy planting. Mindy mapped out the rows on a nice grid of graph paper, so we had very detailed plans to follow. It is great to have such a flat space to plant on.
Same garden, but a few days later. Can you spot the very sad looking rhubarb?
A closer picture of our very sad-looking rhubarb. It has since been joined by several of its brethren, so now we have an entire row of leafy sadness.
Our Stihl saw ran beautifully, until one day it didn't. The cylinder and piston are now scored beyond use. We will either swap out the 290 cylinder/piston assembly for the 390 pieces, or sell it as is. Not sure yet. In any case, we need a reliable saw, and we chose a Husqvarna 346xp this time. Same power, much less weight, and it is built to a higher standard than our Stihl 290 was. We liked them both, but the new tool is in a different class. Old and busted, meet the new hotness.
Andy and Chris enjoyed a great road-trip with Dad in the summer of 1986 when they travelled over the mountains from Charlemont, MA to Troy, NY to pick up a brand new TroyBilt Horse Rototiller. The tiller lives in Chester, now, and while the tool itself is built like a tank, the original Tecumseh engine decided it had had enough. So... Old and busted, meet the new hotness. Now we're ready to tackle some work.
Andy and Chris spent a frustrating hour last week torn between two tasks... the fun of an engine swap on the tiller, and the dreary option of hanging window boxes. Yes, the window boxes look great, and we do love to make our wives happy, but come on! The cold frames are partially disassembled in this shot, and are entirely cleared away by the time of this post. We have scraped away a lot of the extra sand and gravel from the front of the house and are preparing for some dirt so we can seed and plant the area in front of the house. No, we don't park there anymore.
Here you can see the remaining window boxes fully hung. The two satellite windows are empty for now - those planters were put in the kitchen windows instead, where they would be more enjoyed from inside the house.
Karen and Chris went for a hike with some friends on Memorial Day. We set out to hike Alander Mountain, and ended up somewhere else entirely. The weather was perfect, the company was fun, and the view turned out pretty decent, too. This picture is looking West into NY, from a non-summit along the trail between Alander and Frissell mountains in Mt. Washington State Park, SW Massachusetts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Stone Wall

We woke up to a fallen tree on Mother's Day. Fortunately, it didn't hit anything of value. The rocks don't look new anymore, so we may need to replace some of them so they all look factory fresh. The tree came within three feet of a Miata and Benson's bike, and about five feet from Andy's WRX. Too close! Andy and Mindy heard the tree fall during the night, but Andy figured "Meh, it didn't hit the house. I'll look at it in the morning."
You can see why it fell from this picture that Karen took. There were a few contributing factors, actually. We cut down a lot of the trees that used to surround and protect it, so the maple was exposed to more wind than it had been used to. Also, it had grown in a tough spot on top of a ridge of rock, and very close to an even higher ridge. The roots had about a foot of spread toward the West, and everything else was in a North/South/East direction. When the wind came from the West, the uneven roots acted like a hinge, and the 120 year old tree just flopped right over. There is a massive cherry tree in the foreground that we may take down proactively for the same reason. We have heard that cherry roots extend with more depth and strength than maple roots do, so we haven't totally made up our minds. It would be a shame to take it down.
One more view of the fallen tree. An unusual activity for us on a Sunday morning!
We chose a spot for the chicken coop this week, and Andy has dug away some earth and placed some footings in the ground. 18" of packed gravel, and then the cinderblock should provide adequate support for the coop. It will be 8'x12', with transom windows, an entry for people, and an entry for the birds. We will have them in a run at first, but once they are accustomed to returning to the coop every night, we hope to let them run free range. Piper should keep any potential predators away, and as long as she doesn't develop a taste for nuggets and wings, we hope to keep a happy flock.
Eli is wearing his "I love chicks" shirt, which seems appropriate.
The cavalry has arrived! The stones and boulders that we can't move with our tractor are just a warm-up to big machines like this.
Lots of work has gone into gathering all the rocks, and with them all displayed around the yard, it is easy to pick from the group and make a decent-looking wall. I know it's New England, and we shouldn't be surprised.... but we have so much stone!
A little further along.
I hope Eli has learned not to take the keys this time...
More of the wall in place, and one load of topsoil delivered. No rocks in the topsoil. :) We are going to be spoiled.
Quite a few more stones, and more of the flatness in place. The wall is about 120' long at this point, and the widest section of flat earth is about 25'-30'. Plenty of space for a good garden. We may add another terrace in the future.
It's so flat! We really like the defined edge that the wall provides to the driveway, and most of us are looking forward to the snakes that we expect to find sunning themselves on or in the wall.
Our cold frames have served their purpose well, and the plants have really taken off. It's nice to see so much green in there. Many of the plants are starting to push against the glass, so next year we will make these frames taller. We still think it's a bit early to put some of the plants in the ground. It won't be long, though.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Cold Frames

Benson drove the tractor for awhile this week, helping us clear the last few logs and piles of firewood from the future garden spot. We also took a few trees down.
Freshly cut wood. Isn't it pretty?
I hope you didn't have anything too grand in mind because of the post title. We had some extra straw lying around, and along with a left-over 2x10 and some roadside windows, we have ourselves some functioning cold frames. Not too pretty, but it's not like they're right in front of the house or anything. Well, where were supposed to put them? That's the south side! All told, Mindy planted 825 dixie cups with vegetables and flowers. It just got to be too many to keep moving in and out of the house.
The hillside as of Saturday afternoon. We are very excited to see the changes take place here. We will have flatness!
Ethan turned 7 this week! And he received a plant from somebody that seems to have made him pretty happy about things. :) Sorry about the red-eye. I'll see about fixing that.