Sunday, December 6, 2009

First real snow of the season...

We got a nice little storm last night, it started later in the day- after dark, which is roughly a bit after 4 O'clock this time of year.  Took a while for it to stick, but it got heavier around 9pm and got close to 5 inches a little before midnight when i stopped keeping track and went to sleep. Woke up to about 6-7 inches of snow, and a dusting on the driveway.

Not very picturesque with all the stuff in the way that i didn't want to go out and shuffle past to get a nicer shot.  Its the weekend and even 7am is too early to be outside on a day i don't have to scrape snow off the cars.

I expect this to not last very long, or at least the majority of it will melt in the next day or so, its after noon and its 39F in the sun right now, the roof is dripping and the house is bright inside with the sun reflecting off the snow. Its nice.

Expecting more snow possibly on Wednesday and perhaps more later in the week, but its too soon to be sure.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009



Eliminating wasted space.

About 3 hours later:


I have a few more redundancies to eliminate but the second shelf stack allowed me to clean out all the cleaning supplies from under the sink in the kitchen, so now i don't have to worry about the little one getting into them.

This is what hubby has done:
it was an awful mess here before, i had my books in totes and cardboard boxes- the boxes were up on shelves, but with so much flooding the boxes lost their stiffness and loosened. Though very few of my books actually got wet, the slow collapse of the boxes left things in a mess.

He's also applied DryLoc to the walls to see if we can keep the dampness down when we do have those soaking rains that have been happening much more frequently than i can remember.
 He is under the impression that painting up to the granite foundation isn't a good idea.  I don't have a clue myself.

All those black totes contain books.  My books.  I think the green ones have assorted aquarium odds and ends...

But he's got it all organized and  most of the walls painted. He's doing more painting right now...i think.

And for today's edition of "Watching Grass Grow":

i need to go all the way to that back corner and retrieve the black grill cover, it blew there a few days ago when we had all that wind. I don't usually get to go out that far even win her Princessness is sleeping.  She has a sensitive proximity alarm and i can barely get past the driveway before she wakes up.  Hopefully i'll remember to sneak out and get it or it will spend all winter out there in a crumbled, muddy heap.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rain...rain and more rain.

Oh, i am so tired of rain. It rained all last week, yesterday we had a nice sunny day- but cold.  Now we are back to rain again. If it isn't raining its cloudy, which isn't much nicer. Wednesday we had high wind, and it almost blew down the fence!  The ground out there is so rocky that when my hubby and dad were using the auger to bore out the post holes, the auger would get kicked down at an angle, making the holes bigger than they needed to be, and any rocks down there had to be removed- so we ended up with loose soil around the posts with a good deal of void space.  This is normal when using an auger and not much of a big deal... until you get so much rain in one season that the ground is so soggy it can hardly hold its own weight. So, hubby had to go out in the cold wind and refill the voids around the posts.... took a couple wheel barrows full he said.  I was busy with the baby who is now crawling at lightening speed and is pulling up onto furniture and cruising around, so i didn't have time to snap my compulsory photos or to even see what the mess looked like and how bad it was.

Good thing is even with the steady rain and high wind, there was little road flooding due to the town finally getting off their can and sending out that crew to clean out the street drains! Yay!  This is a serious accomplishment.

Its also a big help that Justin has managed to get the basement well cleared out and has had time to begin painting the basement walls with a dry-loc waterproof paint.  Its looking really nice down there actually...  Its already a storage area, but since its beginning to look neater and stay dryer, its possible that more things will be stored down there and kept in much better condition.   The toughest part, now that the water issue may be on its way to being eradicated is the dust.  This house is so dusty it is driving me batty.  I remember dusting daily as a kid and remembering that it was more of an exercise in obedience more than a necessity... but this house- its a never ending ordeal.  No, i don't dust every day- but if i did it wouldn't be overdoing it.  Even without the birds, it is dusty.  I had assumed before that it was mostly feather dust, but now it seems that was not the case.  I have a Dyson and i thought having that would help a lot since it really hauls a lot out of the carpet, but even that is not enough and i vacuum daily.  I think it has to do with the likelihood that this house is made up mostly of horsehair plaster and blown-in cellulose insulation and i suspect the lady who owned the house before us used her carpet sweeper rather than a vacuum judging by the condition of the carpet.  Not sure what can be done to eliminate that as a source without gutting and redoing everything.
Maybe i will have to dust daily.  Air filtration is expensive.

So...while i'm trying to type here i am making some turkey stock on the stove. Gets the house smelling nice and cozy and the hot pot makes the kitchen just a little warmer. I like making stock with the scrappy ends of whatever other veggies i have, usually carrots and other root veggies, celery leaves, onion ends...  I also have a crock pot of beans going. I made a gingersnap crusted ham for Thanksgiving as well as the turkey and i thought the ham bone would be nice to flavor the beans with. I used applewood smoked bacon in there as well..  i don't use salt pork much, it doesn't add any real flavor in my opinion. Why use salt pork when you can add bacon?  Its harder to find anyway.

Oh, for my mushroom research... i found a kit called TeePee.... you can grow Oyster Mushrooms in a roll of toilet paper!  It is unreal, and i think i just might try it out. Fairly inexpensive, considering they send you the supplies (except the paper) for 15 rolls- which can fruit as many as 3 times for $36. I like that it gives me material for 15 attempts.  I just need to figure out how long the spores can be stored because i don't know what i think of having all 15 rolls going at once. I guess if they produce famously, i could dehydrate the stuff.

I wish i could grow wood ear mushrooms, the closest Chinese Food restaurant makes their Hot and Sour soup with those in it and edible lily buds... it is very good. I need to find what type of lily buds they are and if they buy them in a tin, dried or fresh. I love Hot and Sour Soup.

Farmer's Almanac is dismally off so far...calling for less-than-usual precipitation and a snow storm around Thanksgiving.  If you want to play the game, you could substitute "wind storm" for "snow storm" and say they were right on the money.  We only had one slush storm so far and wet flurries before the last day of October. So, i don't know how reliable they will be this coming spring for planting planning.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mushroom Farming

Another activity that caught my attention...    Homegrown Edible Mushrooms.  Oyster, Shiitake, Button, Portabella/Crimini....  i love all food, and mushrooms are no exception...

So i am getting some research time in.

In my Pinetree catalog there is a company called Fungi Perfecti, who i might do some ordering from if i decide to start this project.  They seem to have a decent price setting and somewhat more conservative atmosphere.  There are other places that are a little different, they sell stuff to grow any mushroom, but you have to make up your own kits and they aren't really helpful... they also seem to (though they deny it) be prepared to set you up to grow hallucinogenic types of shrooms.
I ran into the same annoying atmosphere when i was looking into growing my tropical collectors' plants and maybe some garden veggies under grow lights in the basement (i was hoping to find a way to have a greenhouse environment in the winter without an actual greenhouse since i don't have the  money or hubby's blessing to build one-poor guy) . The only places i found with much info on growing things under lights and hydroponics were pothead sites for growing weed.  So that was annoying. I was loathe to join any forums related to the seller's sites because that is simply not a facet of culture i felt a desire to be part of.

I did also notice that there are a few different methods of growing the mushrooms. Some of the shabbier (gurneys, etc.) seed catalog companies state that the boxed mushroom kits can be placed in the sink cabinet and grown there. The mushroom growing sites that appear more reputable seem to be saying that the sink area is totally not recommended.
There is also a mushroom growing lingo that i need to get a handle on before i buy anything so  i know what i am getting into. There are also the scientific concepts to grasp, remember high school biology?

There is one place i liked the setups they sell, Mushbox and though they may deny it,  they well aware of what mushroom grower they cater to. Their page header shows a cow in a field of mushrooms. Growing up rural, surrounded by cow pastures, i am well aware of where and in what, at least one type of psychedelic shrooms grow.  So, i'm not sure that this Christian woman wants to buy from them and i can imagine what their associated Forum is like.

Unfourtunately Fungi Perfecti is also light on beginners' information at their site. They do give basic descriptions of their kits, but i like more detailed info than that. I want to know what instructions i have to follow so i can plan where to carry out the project, how time consuming the hobby is, the longevity of the kit, if i can culture the spores and transfer them outdoors once the box kit is spent, i want to know if the different types of edible mushrooms can be dried in my dehydrator and stored how and for how long,  i want to know if the amount of fungi i harvest from them can compete price wise with the grocery store. I also want enough information so that i can decide if i have good luck with one kit, if it is possible to expand to multiple kits and if i can do it all on my mini, portable greenhouse. Because if so, that means i need to buy another since i plan on using the current greenhouse to hold my wintersowing project.

So i googled and fiddled with the search terms and i found this company Mushroom Adventures, they are pricier than Fungi Perfecti but they have their kit instructions on their website right here!  This is exactly what i was looking for to start. So for the next few hours or days- depending on time between other things i must do, i will be studying and familiarizing myself with the jargon and concepts with those preliminary pages.

....and i did find another article hidden among Fungi Perfecti's pages : Maximizing spent kits. This is exactly the info i was looking for to supplement the above Instruction Sheets.  So, it looks like i can use the remains of the mushroom boxes to start outdoor mushroom colonies.  There are a few areas in the yard that i may actually be able to put mushroom patches/logs/structures, its a pretty exciting concept.   The mushroom kits are not cheap and it means that the money spent for the kit in the winter/fall can be used for another purpose and i won't necessarily have to buy another product to try growing them outside. It also means that if i get a disappointing results from the boxes, they may have a second, more successful life if the material is set outside.

I may have to save up and buy another portable greenhouse...

...and this article looks quite promising....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Any number of things

Added a count down timer for the first planting day of next spring. Its not really necessary now, but i think it will be pretty cool to watch come March!  Up here we don't plant out until the last full moon and that is usually on Memorial day.
Normally we are away at camp on Memorial Day so planting does not happen until the next day at the soonest.

I was thinking about winter sowing again today, and wondering why it seems to be so "new" of an idea. Really,  how did people do it before grow lamps, heat mats, plastic trays, sterile potting mix, nurseries that start it all for you... etc?  The way we do things today, our ancestors would have starved.  Apparently, wintersowing is not a new thing, it is a method that almost died out.  It is something worth re-learning. Especially since it means less clutter!
But i still want a greenhouse.
But that will never happen.  Even if we were to have the money, i don't think the hubbs would support it.  He's never been interested in my hobbies, i think they are more of a nuisance to him.  But i think he has finally learned that at least with the small stuff, he is not a deterrent. lol

I have to remember to research pressure canners, though i don't know if i will ever have the nerve to use it. Time,, hopefully...  but i never trust myself with these sort of things. I have to run through the whole process once by myself first, its getting that first time out of the way that is important.
But i want a good canner. I know i tend to go off the deep end at times i always have to get the bigger one or the one with more options, but its mainly because i am unsure with what i am doing, i at least want to have the right equipment so i can troubleshoot the method.  If your equipment is bad and you don't know it, no method is going to work to fix any problems...and i always assume i'm going to have a disaster because somewhere along the line i decided that i can't do anything right.

I also don't know where i'd store all the cans,  i know the full ones would go in the pantry, but where to store the empties?  My house is so small, we don't even have a bedroom for the baby to use when she gets bigger. Moving is not an option. Its funny tho that since we moved in here (thought it was far better than any apartment and i am grateful for my house) i have been dreaming almost every night that this house has more rooms.  There are always extra rooms that i forgot about in my dreams,  ones we don't use...and some of them are full of the previous owner's things. Always antiques, or nice 'old lady' things,  not junk or anything that should be thrown away.  But in my dream i will have something that needs to be put away and i will say, "oh, i can put it in that room over there",  and i will open a door that dosen't exist, and there the room is.  Or the rooms will be full of fascinating things. One time i had a whole forgotten library.... 

So, add to the things i want or need to do...

....Cold frames....

those too.  I think i know where to put some in... if i ever could do it.

Right here:

Right now (this picture is not current) it is my nursery bed now. I have 4 Native Beach Plum plants and a variegated Elderberry plant in there to winter over. I hope they make it!  I got the Beach Plums from Oikos Tree Crops,  they are an interesting company. I got 3 of my 5 types of Jerusalem Artichokes from them,  Red Rover, White Fuseau and i forget the other.... maybe it was just two...hmmm...

  This is why i journal, memory is so bad!  I could look at  back pages of  this journal later.  But i did check out the website to Oikos, and it looks like they have added to their root varieties... they have one called Clearwater that apparently they sourced up here in Maine and they have another called Waldspinel from Austria....  i have only tasted sunchokes once, but i want these two varieties now.  Uggh.   I am still curious about the phantom variety i saw being sold on a Canadian website, the seller called them Passamaquoddy Potatoes.  My MIL has never heard of them and she is Passamaquoddy and my hubby grew up on the reservation, so its a mystery to me.  Of course the seller could have flat out invented the name,  or was misled by her source for the roots.  The Canadian company does not have the proper permits to sell me the roots, so i can't try them out, which is a bummer. I wonder if they are just Red Fuseaus...But these are the silly things that keep me up at night...not really.  My leg does tho, and this is what i think about that lets me ignore that. Ha ha.

I need to think about Asparagus also,  i adore asparagus and the fact that it is one of the first garden edibles in the spring makes it even better.   Pinetree sells it by seed and by root.  They have Martha Washington by seed i think and i can't remember which one they have by root.  But i think i'll get both. I bet i could wintersow the seed with great results.

I tried to get the open pollinated heirloom types in the catalog this year. I like a little history with my veggies and i like the idea that i could potentially fertilize and save the seeds and get something like their parent plants.

Jacob's Cattle beans are one that i totally remember. My grandfather had them hanging up all over the sun room in their old house. They make a good dry bean for baking, but are very good picked fresh out of the garden in the summer.  They make a large baking bean, bigger than navy, but not as big as the one i think they call Scarlet Runner...  speaking of which, that's another one i need to get....  it makes great bean teepees. I planted Jacob's Cattle the summer before this last and they did great as always.

Another garden veg i remember are the yellow pear tomatoes. My grandfather planted those too, there is something about the taste of a fresh tomato still warm from the sun that can't be beat by anything else.  Especially the yellow pear tomatoes.  When i was a kid, they were the perfect size and shape for eating in the field.  Of course my grandfather had a field of them... see where i get my overambitious gardening tendencies?  Anyway, the unique shape is the key,  you bite off the narrow part and squeeze and suck the juice out of the fruit, then you pop the rest in your mouth and its one of those things i won't forget. Standing in the middle of the huge garden wearing a soggy swimsuit and waterlogged rubber boots (fresh from hanging out in the frog pond), popping yellow pear tomatoes in the hot summer sun, cicadas droning in the pine trees. It was one of those things that make having been a kid worthwhile.

So, i have to plant those too...i wish i could find the heirloom type that my grandfather planted i saw it one day in a magazine i think,  but Pinetree does not have it this year at least, maybe Johnny's has it... i'll have to look.

I thought it was odd that i already got Pinetree's catalog this year. They must be seriously trying to keep up,  they got swamped so bad last year they were almost begging people to not order from them until later ...and the online seed place ratings site, they got so many bad reviews for late shipments. It was awful to see, they have always been a great company i hated to see them so roundly bashed just for getting overwhelmed. Its the economy  and the surge in people wanting to grow their own food.  The world is so nasty now though that any mess up or mistake a company makes, they get slammed with the worst of obnoxious criticism.  So, i'm ordering from them first from now on because they have always been good to me. I like Johnny's too, but they are so expensive, its almost ridiculous- like if LL Bean had a seed store- that type of expensive.  One year i did a test order of seeds. I filled out one order form from Johnny's and one from Pinetree, same exact items, and Pinetree was almost half the price of Johnny's.  So if i can get it from Pinetree, i will go there first.

Well i have my seed list made, with my highlighter and calculator. I'll start saving a few bucks a week until i can submit my order. I always get too many seeds, too many types, but since i don't buy jewelery or shoes i think i can splurge on garden i can share out any extras or trade them on GardenWeb like i used to. I still have my Cardamom plant from years ago.  Ahhh...remember when postage was cheap?

I want to mail my sister some extra yarn i have that i won't be using anytime soon that she would probably be able to work up quickly,  but i'm scared to try mailing it until i have at least $20 to spare.  I have a feeling it might cost close that for Priority.  Maybe i won't need to ship it priority,  i'm so used to shipping live or delicate things that it seems weird to me to let it take a week or two to ship. Maybe i should get over that! lol

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Snow, rain, washouts...etc.

 It did snow a couple weeks ago, it didn't really cover much,  just dusted the parts where the shade lasts the longest and the ground is therefore cooler.  Good to see that my garden is going to be situated in the area where the snow didn't stick.

This should mean that i chose wisely situating it here, even though i do worry about the way the runoff channels the soil out there.

This is what i mean:

So the grass is this high now...

....And it kinda is helping.

Did some more wintersowing  research and found this site

I'm really gaining confidence that that method is going to be just the thing i need to get a good start on the season.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ugggh... been busy.

I think its one of those "i know i don't have followers, so whats the rush?"  but i have to remind myself that this is also a Journal to keep me from forgetting things, not a brag piece for showing an unknown number of people what i am up to every day...  hence the Watching grass grow entries (and i have more pictures of that BTW)...  whats more boring than watching ryegrass grow?  watching it grow on a blog. LOL

Ok,  so anyway,  on with this semi-public conversation  with myself!

Today i need to remind myself of the research i have done on a garden technique called Winter Sowing.  Its a way to get stuff in the garden before it even thaws. At first i had thought it was some sort of weird "toss the seeds on the snow and let them melt in" sort of thing...  i mean it sounded totally weird and then i thought maybe this is something people in Florida do when they think they are experiencing a real winter. 
Lets face it,  'winter' in Florida does not exist. They have Fall at the most.

Anyway,  it turned out that neither was the case.

My focus this year is on Veggies,  i am trying to save some money and learn some old time skills before they are forgotten forever in my family.  Veggies>Gardening>Preserving >Canning....

According to  the technique is:
Winter Sowing is fabulous for starting veggies. If you’ve had problems with direct sowing veggie seeds such as the seeds get eaten by birds or critters, or they either desiccate or rot in the soil, or bugs eat them, or there's insufficient germination (for whatever reason) try Winter Sowing your vegetable seeds.

The website has useful lists sorted by USDA Gardening Zones and by seed type.  Hardy annuals, perennials, veggies, herbs..etc.

My focus being veggies for Zone 5, i see that such things as onions, beets, carrots, parsnips, chard, tomatoes, curcubits, plus a few others, are all options for this technique.

Tomatoes make sense and even squashes because i can remember a few times i'd find volunteer tomato seedlings pop up in the garden and almost everyone with a compost heap has experienced the Godzilla Squash  Compost Monster plant that inevitably sprouts from  wayward seed from the previous year.  This past summer's Compost Monster was a strange pattypan/carnival squash hybrid.  I should take a picture of the single fruit it produced before it got mashed in the yardwork. I took the fruit because it looked so neat,  but i didn't have any idea what to do with it, since it was a winter and summer squash mix.  It is still in the pantry, awaiting its fate.

I wish i could try it with Artichokes (not the JA type!) but the site says i have to be in a warmer zone...  but then i have that newer variety that is supposed to be quite hardy- the one i tried the cold-hardening technique on last year that didn't work and i was so annoyed over.  I might try it with the remaining seeds. What have i got to lose?

Basically, you take hardy seeds, seeds from plants that reseed themselves, and seeds that either need stratification or take forever to germinate... sow them in seed flats like you would in the spring,  and you set them outside.
This is a fabulous FAQ:

Ok, thats if for this entry. i have too much to do today and i have chat requests coming in from facebook and i need to cut my fingernails they are making it impossible to type!

Monday, November 2, 2009

From the beginning....this is a LONG entry!

The first photos here were taken 6-11-08 according to my computer's photoviewer.  My camera at the time had datestamp function errors, so if you see red numbers at the corner of any of them (it happens randomly) just ignore it. lol

I have posted the pictures on my Facebook page and shared them in other places, but for the sake of Blog continuity, i am going to redo it here as well.
So as you may be able to tell from the date i stated, this is what the property looked like the summer following the fire that happened sometime in February.
The owner had much of the worst of the debris cleared up  and her son came and salvaged a lot of the big pieces of scrap metal. That was during the beginning of the current economic downturn that began a while ago,  where it was a trend to collect scrap metal and turn it in, it was a big boom at the time and the son was able to line his pockets with the proceeds of his mother's loss.

During this time, the large gaping pit- 8-10 feet deep in places was a huge temptation for some neighborhood boys.  Nobody in this neighborhood watches their kids, with the exception of the people that live directly across the street in front of our house.
It was frustrating and a bit scary to watch these kids keep sneaking onto this yard. Under the grass, weeds and plants lurked broken glass, rusty nails, jagged boards, wires....  a very serious situation and not a safe place to play.  The police kept putting up caution tape, but the unregulated kids just kept taking it down.  Since this land adjoined ours, the kids would also come right onto our yard and started messing around with our stuff!

At this time, i was still recovering from the car accident and had just graduated to crutches.  I was still barely able to get outside on my own. I think these were pictures of the first day i was able to get out and take a close look at what things were like out there.  It was a beautiful day and i think that is what lured me out.  I was 90% bedridden for about 4 months prior so getting up and out the door was a real treat.

This picture reminds me of the day a few days after this, when i caught some kids playing in my yard at our basketball hoop. The accident totally destroyed my Hyundai, so when my hubby was at work there were no cars indicating anyone was home. I was taking a nap when i heard the basket ball being dribbled and skateboards running in the driveway. I was so mad. These kids had been asked nicely to not mess around in our yard, but of course they thought they could sneak in when they thought nobody was home.  Of course i yelled.
This is something i never would have done as a child. We had respect instilled in us... never would this have been an issue in my youth. I don't think i can accept it.  The parents do nothing about it either.

That is part of the reason for the stockade fence we have been putting up.

Below is a picture of part of the front of our house. Mostly for clarity purposes since most of the houses that will be seen in the pictures are not ours. The big white one with the melted siding belongs to the not-so-nice neighbors. We have had many issues with them.

My flower garden dosen't look so hot because i was not able to do anything with them that spring. Usually i would have been out there as soon as possible, weeding and thinning.  That is if i wasn't too tired from work or dealing with depression. But my gardens have been neglected for 2 summers now, this year mostly because rainy weather still makes me very lame and not much can be done when the weather is as soggy as this summer's was!  Slugs and snails galore!
But anyway, this is what our house looked like before we got our new siding- remember that we had some fire damage...

That is the day the siding was beginning to be installed.  The heat from the house fire had bubbled the paint that was on the asbestos siding and it had begun to peel.  Bare asbestos is not something that anyone wants to have around, so the insurance gave us some money to repaint that side. Well, we had planned to get siding done so we used what we got for insurance to supplement the cost of new siding over all.  That silver board leaning up against the house is called Fanfold, and we went and had it put under the siding. It adds insulation and sound dampening and also can help keep the asbestos siding isolated better.
My dad's good friend does siding installations so we hired him to do it for us since he does great work. My dad also wanted to help with the installation, so we got him for free.. I love my dad.

We went with a fairly premium siding, we had the money from the fire insurance, plus some pain and suffering payout from my accident, so we figured while we were in a position to do so, why not get the good stuff. Its more of an investment than a silly splurge.

The house isn't quite square to the ground anymore- its over 100 years old.... but it wasn't bad... Up go the corner edges. That is the foundation for the siding lengths.

Then the Fanfold insulation , worth every penny. It noticeably cut down on the house's  draftiness level.

The new color, versus the old color.

I didn't take as many pictures of the siding as i thought i had, i also can't find the finished pics. I think they got lost in a computer crash i had earlier this spring.  So that is it for this subject!

On to the yard remake!

We were able to get the purchase of the land finalized late fall of 2008.

I don't remember where the date is written down, but i could look it up later and edit in the details.

But due to issues we have had with the neighbors across the lot, there was no way we were starting anything without getting a surveyor to give us the exact and correct  property lines.  We also knew the lines on the side with the nice neighbors were not entirely right and we certainly did not want to take what did not belong to us on either side--- But i paid a pretty penny for that lot (let's not forget that the money came from pain and suffering payout from a car accident with a drunk, that almost killed me) and i wanted every honest inch that i had paid for.

The only thing we did was go along and mow down some of the growth and dump one load of fill into the pit- which the not-so-nice neighbors promptly called the town about to complain.
Lying, she said we had a dump truck (it was my dad's trailer on his Ford pickup) full of clean fill.
We had already asked about permits and were told we didn't need any for what little dirt we had at the time. But that doesn't stop  people who are just nasty. 
Anyway, the town official recognized that it wasn't a dump truck load of fill and confirmed no permit needed
and that was all. We only had the one load to do anyway- to fill in the deepest part of the pit for the neighborhood kids' safety.

We got rid of this shrub, which crowded into our driveway every summer

We also cleaned much of the "garden"debris, well i say "we" but it was mostly my mother and hubby that did the cleaning.
The former owner was a collector of many garden trinkets, large and small....  broken and whole, concrete and plastic.  There was about 40 years worth of kitschy clutter in there.  About six of my dad's trailer loads full.  We did some cleaning that fall, but the bulk of it was done after the survey was completed and the snow was all melted in the spring of 2009.

So the surveying had began sometime after snowfall and i took some pictures, but i think those were lost along with the siding documentation, and the surveying was completed early this past spring.  After that was settled, and we found that the not-so-nice neighbor's fence was indeed on our property.. as much as 4 feet over, we had to get some simple legal advice on what to do about it.

A registered letter requesting that they remove it within 30 days was advised, and we sent it- giving 45 days in an effort to be accommodating ...  which was ignored.

In fact, they ignored us almost completely except for the one finger salute they would give us every time they drove by.
Not rain nor snow nor dark of night kept them from giving us and anyone in our yard, driveway, sidewalk or window this historical signal of friendship and respect...cough....cough....

We got a little help with fill from the people that live at the other end of the street.  The spit of land where the trees were (that i posted pics being cut down a few days ago) had  a number of large boulders on it.  They asked if they could discard them in our pit since there was no other place to do so.  We were only too happy to accept the rocks which was a solution that saved us all a bit of money.  So those neighbors used their little Bobcat and moved all the rocks and that was done in a day.

So, the real work began April 18, 2009

You can see the boulders in the pit and where my dad used his tractor to scrape the edges down a bit.

There were a lot of pretty nice landscape plants that had been planted in the yard. There were a ton of Hostas, and my mother loves Hostas. I am not a big fan, so i was more than happy to let her have them all since she was being so helpful to me in doing so much yard work that i am not able to do.

  I went all over the yard for a few days  before the guys got too crazy and i took pink spray paint and pink survey tape and marked every ornamental plant that i wanted saved.
There had to be at least 30 different Hostas, large leafed, small leafed, variegated, margined, ruffly, flat....  all types.
There were a ton of old fashioned lilac, purple and white flowered. There was one French lilac, a nice Yew (you can see it in the first picture in this entry where it has a lot of orange where it got fire damage- but it recovered very nicely), a red twigged, variegated dogwood,  a white rugosa rose, the beautiful Tree Hydrangea that is my profile picture, a double magenta Rose of Sharon, a female holly, the two dwarf grafted apple trees, a huge flowering quince, a number of old fashioned peonies, pink turtlehead, a bleeding heart and way more than i can list.
There were a couple ornamental pines but they were so misshapen from being planted next to structures or having junk piled on top of them over the years, that we just cut them down.
We saved what we could, and dug up and sent almost all of it to live at my parent's house. We only discarded a few plants, just the pines really. We kept the apples, the Rose of Sharon and the tree Hydrangea, the rest went to live on my parents' seven or so acres. Once i get things settled and plotted, i can take cuttings or suckers if i want. I hope the free landscaping plants feel like a fair trade to my parents' for all the help they give us and are still giving us.  Of course they have never asked for anything in return,  but i hope they are as happy to have the plants as i was happy to provide something-anything to show my thanks.

This picture shows the Yew and a burning bush and i think maybe the French lilac.

One of the pines we had to cut down is in the pit and you can see a couple green plants down there with the apple trees.... i think one is a holly and the other might be the other pune tree that we cut down.  You can see to the far left of the picture, yet another Box Elder that had to be removed. Its freshly-cut stump is a cream colored speck. That tree was growing right into their roof and the roots were into the basement, i'm surprised it didn't collapse the house.

More dirt pushing.  What would we do without my dad and his John Deere?
Hubby is leaning on the stack of fence panels that he spent all summer painting one by one. Something like 30 of them all counted.

Dad was trying to bury the platform that held the black oil tank that had belonged to the burned house. It was a very large concrete slab with rebar sticking out all over. It took a lot of digging and shoving, but it got put under eventually!

They had also removed the huge flowering quince, so the hole it left was good for burying the slab.

Between scraping down the edges and the big rocks, most of the pit was filled.  One thing good about all the rain we got this spring and summer  was that it compacted the soil and collapsed any subterranean voids, so we should not end up with little sinkholes  all over the place in the future.

We need a break from all the brown....  These are my nice spring flowers. The roses aren't awake yet,  but right now everything else looks happy.

The old shed came with the yard. Hubby  had gone inside, put his hands on the roof and turned it around  to face this direction, so we used it for the snow blower  last winter.  But that was its last gasp because it was so rickety we decided to just discard it. I was disappointed that we couldn't use it more, but it really was in bad shape, all the seams were loose and the corners were bowing in.

One of the survey pins. Shows how far over the property line that fence is.

Some of the lilacs that we dug up and saved.

When the not-so-nice neighbors put the fence on the former owner's property, they plunked it down right in the middle of some of her lilacs.  There was yet another Box Elder tree growing in that cluster and it was such a mess that we had to forget this bunch of lilacs  and cut it all down.  I didn't really want to, but it was going to be too hard to get the lilacs out and we already had dug up and saved so many, it wasn't so bad.

The Surveyor stake, the milk can and the stone monument...
Its not the best angle, but you can see the stone monument that is within our property line. The line goes at an angle off to the right, the other surveyor stake is past the swing set all the way back. It is just about in line with where the closest leg of the swing set is in the ground.

Digging up some lilacs.

We were careful to not dig too far over and get into their side. I don't know what is up with that storm window against their house.  Hoping we'd break it so they could accuse us of vandalism? Haha.  It didn't move an inch, and as far as i know, its still there to this day!

Into the truck ya go!  Off to wide open spaces and sweeter soil!

Moving the Burning Bush. I took lots of pictures because where we were so close to their house, i didn't want any accusations of how we damaged anything, so i documented exactly where and how we dug and maneuvered. Everything!

But it makes a pretty cool pictorial sequence, and i omitted a lot of them.





Then the trouble began...

When we tried to move the tree hydrangea in the photo below.

This tree was planted by the mother of the person we bought the yard from. But as soon as we moved it, the not-so-nice neighbors began to have a fit.  Police were called, etc. We showed the police the survey map,  nsn-neighbors tried to justify themselves by making up a story about how we hired a bunch of different surveyors until we found one that gave us the property lines we wanted and a whole bunch of really pathetic inventions. It was quite sad, really.

As anyone who knows understands,  that is not how surveying works!

The officer looked at the survey map and basically said "carry on"....  and so we did.  But i didn't snap any more photos until the nsn-neighbors left because i didn't know if that would provoke anything and we really were trying to be decent.


But this picture (showing the survey line and the hydrangea on the left) is worth the proverbial 1,000 words.


The hydrangea's new home.

This is the first hole for the first post for the fence....!

We didn't really intend it to look like this... but it has a sort of   "Talk to the hand!"  effect....  i think hubby and my dad kind of liked that impression.  They were the ones that bore the nsn-neighbors' verbal assault.

So, there is the first corner.

We also moved that Rose of Sharon tree up to the front. It had been in the way back in the shade and i don't think it had flowered much cause i never noticed it at all.  Justin is setting paver bricks along the bottom of the fence to see if we can keep weeds from growing too much there and becoming a real pain.
The tree hydrangea looks quite happy there.

A much improved view.


We had some dirt delivered, i think 3 dump truck-loads.  So dad came and spread it out in the areas where all the plants we wanted to move had been.

There are still a ton of lilacs in this picture- that's the big shrubby stuff over to the left a way.
The posts on the left were  painted by hubby and he dunked them in driveway sealer to see if it would help keep the wood preserved a little longer..Its pressure treated, but he was hoping for an extra measure, at least to keep us from having to do any digging over the fence in the near future!

Lilacs....  here today.....

Well, this pic is from like 2 weeks later and the lilacs are still there....  but they are waaaay back.  We asked the nice neighbors if they wanted them and they said they would like them, so we moved them down the slope.

Then my dad and hubby built the retaining wall.  My dad had felled a few old pines in his back yard, and he stripped them of branches.  That is what they used to build the wall.

I didn't get to take any pictures since the baby was being rather fussy and i couldn't get her to nap so i could make my escape...

By the time i got out to take pics, they were mostly done.

We'd had a few more loads of dirt delivered, and my dad trucked in a few piles of the town's recycle compost.  They got that all the sand spread out before the day was over.


This is the retaining wall.  I think its about 3' high...  It had to be done so we didn't have such a sharp grade from the front yard to the back yard.  The front turned out pretty level on its own, but about halfway to the back and where the properties met (old and new) was a pretty sharp drop that was more on the new side than on the old, water would rush down and was causing a slow erosion.


looking West-ish.


Looking, NorthEast-ish.

A few days before my dad went off to work on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, he came over and helped my hubby finish the main part of the remaining fences.

Since we had nsn-neighbor issues and they never bothered to remobe the fence, we weren't sure what to expect,  so i was out there, camera ready to show that we were attempting to be as non-invasive as humanly possible.

We carefully re-strung the lines, once again. (The nsn-neighbors cut it down every time we had one up so we had to re-do it each time.)


I'm glad they had the auger, there were so many rocks in the ground, it would have taken them hours to dig each hole with just the post-hole digger.


I took pictures of each panel of their fence in case any questions arose about whether we were being careful.  I guess technically, the fence belonged to us since our "please remove" letter was ignored.  I think they consider it abandoned material.  But i guess hubby had some civil discussion with them and we agreed to stack the fence pieces in their yard so they could close off the back of their yard with it.  So, anyway, we were careful.  Dad pulled their posts by wrapping them with chain and using the bucket of his tractor to pull them up.

We did bust one post, it split when it came up, but we replaced it with an extra unpainted post that we had.


I don't know what we can do with these apples, we propped them so i hope they make it through winter. Next spring i can see if they make it then figure out how to treat them.



There is a gap in the fence all the way to the back corner.  We will have to put a panel down to size and fit it in, but the main part is finished.  We plan to close off the back part with the tall fence panels all the way across.

For the side where the nicer neighbors are, we plan on only doing a 4 foot fence.  It will be the same height  as we had before, but it won't be white pickets. It will have to match the stockade fence,  so it will be painted the same color.  But they do say that good fences make good neighbors, and i think it will simply neaten the look of our place up.  It looks kinda funny right now, all half fenced in.

Ok, thats it so far!