Friday, April 29, 2011

Can we get any busier?

Chain saw Brian from the village came and cut up our pile of salvaged cedar telephone poles and the wwoofers went to work hefting them into place and then drilling and nailing with 6" spikes through the corner boards.
By the end of the day most of the logs were in place.

Next day we sadly said goodbye to Matt and Alina who were on there way to the next host farm in NS.

Laura and I got on with some early potato planting, 4 rows of Yukon Gold and Superior. Rain drove us inside where Laura set out the green and yellow bush bean transplants that were started as an experiment in soil blocks just over a week ago.
There were enough rainy days to keep us transplanting hundreds of seedlings. Here are some heavenly smelling basil plants moving to larger quarters.
And then an email from Alina and Matt who are not having a good time in Antigonish and want to come back to us! Hooray!! So Jimmy picked them up at the bus station yesterday and we will have them til about the 7th of may.
Todays engineering problem was to get a gravity fed water supply to the greenhouse from the steep hillside behind. We gathered up scrap pvc pipe and garden hose and joined them together with plastic parts and screw clamps.
We ran the pipe about 150 feet up the ravine where the water tumbles down for about a week after each rain, and anchored the top end under a rock  in a small pool.
RUNNING WATER!! There's a shut off at this end. I fill 2 big totes and then we have warm water for the watering can to do the tomatoes, beans and other plants that don't like cold water from the hose that draws from the well. 
The crew.
Maintenance never ends with an old house and barn. Jimmy had to replace the cellar cover which was rotten and collapsing from the winter snow load. How pleasant to finally have some warm days to putter outside.
The garden is slowly taking shape with hardy transplants going into the soil. The girls are setting out kale seedlings with cardboard collars around them to deter cutworms.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The very productive past week...

The past week since the tunnel greenhouse went up has been very very busy. I'm so lucky to have these energetic young folks pitching in. They have been working on various farms cross Canada for nearly a year and have picked up many competancies. Its fun to watch them working together intuitively, anticipating what comes next and creatively solving construction problems. They did a bang-up job of this sturdy fence intended to keep chickens, deer and horses out of the new greenhouse garden.
At 19, I would have loved to be doing what these two are so good at. I always loved playing in the dirt.
And then a day off, to go exploring the nearby Fundy Trail. This time of year the trail, along beautiful wooded coastline, is only open to hikers and bikers. They made it in to the 15km point thru some wicked uphills.
Meanwhile Jimmy has been plugging away at next winters woodpile and has it all stacked very precisely (that's kinder than obsessively) in about a week.
Alina and Matt went to work finishing the chicken run that I started last fall. The chickens free range when there's somebody home but this will mean I can let them out safely when we are away.

Next was a redesign and strengthening of a chicken litter designated compost bin, to be placed strategically near the back door of the henhouse.

The new improved version should stand up to the horses using it for a scratching post.
The hen girls are in favor of any new opportunities for scratching about, having thoroughly turned over the kitchen compost pile many times.
Another job crossed off the long list on the fridge is stocking up on sawdust for horse and hen litter. Jimmy took "the kids" to the nearby mill and they filled enough bags to last till fall. Funny, when we were their age near the end of the '60's, we believed "Don't trust anyone over 30". Now anyone under 30 looks to us like fresh faced kids. How perspectives change with advancing years...
Finally it was dry enough for tilling one of the gardens. Matt ran the big tiller
and Alina ran the small one which is so handy for getting into tight spaces and corners.
We got all the leek seedlings planted. Since you want as much below ground as possible to get a blanched white lower stem we plant them by making an 8-9" hole with a T shaped dibble. We drop the seedling into the hole and just flick in enough dirt to cover the roots. As the plant grows up out of the hole over time the rain will wash more dirt in until the hole is gradually filled.
On wednesday, Laura arrived, another young wwoofer from Germany who has to be finding east coast NB very chilly after working in California! We did some preparation work on the front yard flower bed, covering the grass with cardboard to smother it, in preparation for a load of topsoil.
Today we started on the framework for a log cabin as a storm shelter for our little stallion, Prince Charming. Matt and Alina figured out the leveling of the 2x10 pressure treated base.

Laura prepared the corner posts by pre drilling for the spiral nails.

Four "pig trough" corner posts fastened in place..
leveled both ways, and braced in place, awaiting the chain saw guy to come tomorrow. This safety worry wart wont have one of our own...scared to death of the things.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The high tunnel greenhouse is finished!

The next step in constructing the tunnel greenhouse was to bolt the purlins in place, two parallel rows of pipe that will strengthen the structure and provide a place to tie up tomatoes and cucumbers.
The excess pipe is cut off and the cut end is covered with duct tape to protect the plastic from sharp edges.
Next came the scary part - putting on the plastic shorthanded with a 30 km wind blowing...but it went on remarkably easy. The ends are gathered like a bread bag and jammed between two t-posts.

We started lacing with strong army cord from one side to the other over the top, wrapping the cord around the bolts at the bottom of the bows. So the plastic is sandwiched between the bows and the cord.
This way the plastic sides can be pushed up and held in place by the tension of the cord, for access and ventilation.

This is my "TA-DA" moment.
What a pleasant place to work!
You can see why they call this style a caterpillar tunnel.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A wonderfully constructive day...

Yesterday here was the beginning of the new high tunnel greenhouse: 18 posts, cut to 3 feet long, pounded 2 feet into the ground. (Thankfully we have no rocks in this garden.) The posts are manufactured for chain link fence and come in 6 ' lengths. The pieces that will form the bows are 10' lengths of top rail for chain link fence. It takes 2 pieces to make a bow.
Here are our new friends Alina and Matt from Germany who have come to help for a while. They are "wwoofers" and our first guests from the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program. This is a volunteer program where the hosts provide room and board and the volunteers work several hours
a day learning new skills and techniques in a variety of farm situations. This energetic couple of 19 year olds started out in BC last july and have wwoofed their way across the entire country since then. We are very lucky they chose us! Nova Scotia is their next stop.
Here they are figuring out how best to bolt the bender to the picnic table.
The straight pipes are slipped around the bender, and pulled into shape bit by bit until they have a consistant curve.
Next the ends for the top of the curve are fitted together, drilled through and bolted.
We made 9 bows, and then inserted them with some strenuous pushing of the bottom ends towards each other, into the waiting posts.

Our neighbor Wayne came by and got involved in working out the bugs. Here the connectors are put in place to carry the ridgepole, which is 4 lengths of the same straight pipe .
The ridgepole is drilled and bolted at each 10' joint. The connectors are tightened on the ridgepole with the spacing between the bows at exactly 5 '. After some adjustments to get the ridgepole straight,  holes were drilled through the posts and bows and then bolted through to hold everything together. And here's where we finished up today, very pleased with the progress we made. Two days of rain are coming so perhaps wednesday we'll get the next steps done.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Steps forward, steps back...

I really really very much dislike raccoons! This was only part of the mess they left at our rental cottage, the rest was all over the yard. They have been served notice. Further criminal acts will result in deportation.
Spring is very very slowly unfolding with its many chores like
making slip covers for the ratty deck chairs. Painting new signs, and re painting old ones to delete the B&B info. We've had some nice sunny days, altho way colder than I'd like. Warm enough to get out my little red sports car....
The conversation went like this: She, (lusting after the garden stuff in the Veseys Seed Catalog) "Ooooh, look , a non tippy big wheeled , 2 wheel barrow. I couln't tip this, and it would be easier on my back, and I could mix cement in it and yada yada ya..."

He, (sensing an opportunity in the inevitable) "If I got you that now for mother's day would I be off the hook then?"
I love my new wheelbarrow, bless his heart. What a treat after the last two battered single wheelers rescued from the side of the road. I call it Little Red as the 1978 troy tiller is Big Red.
More projects are started, to finish after the ground thaws out. Here's a big flower bed going in the front lawn. I need more space for edible flowers like nasturtiums and johnny jump ups to put into my restaurant salad mixes. They add a lovely splash of color against the greens.
And here's all the fencing to go around the garden where the high tunnel greenhouse will be built. I wish that last aggravating patch of snow would go!

And here's Mother Nature's April Fool's joke today, heavy snowfall warning! (sigh...)