Sunday, November 29, 2009

Attack of the bushes, part 2...

Had lofty hopes of getting some more sheet mulching done today on the last day of my November vacation... but the wind was kicking up enough to make working with sheets of cardboard and straw a mess and a nightmare, so I opted instead to finish digging those ancient bushes out of the front yard.

Turns out the ones that had me so irked yesterday were just little eensy babies compared to the ones near the middle. I was pulling beach-ball sized balls of roots out of the ground for each little spurt of leaves aboveground. At this point I feel the need to look up what all these things are/were, so I can assign them a name that I can then curse.

Despite being a huge and undoubtedly nutrient-rich pile of stuff after all is said and done, I didn't want to incorporate it into my compost pile for fear it would survive and thrive. So, I dumped it all in a pile back by the woodline. We'll see about using it when it's safely composted (read: dead).

Now terribly sore (again, I'm learning the level of soreness that signals the proper end to a day's work), and hunkering down for a bit of R&R and then some freelance work.

Back at the real job tomorrow...

Friday, November 27, 2009


After a relaxing and restorative few days spent at home celebrating Thanksgiving in Cincinnati with my parents, sister, and Grandmother, I'm now back up at the farm for the second weekend of this month's vacation before I have to head back to work.

Picked up some neato bookshelves at IKEA whilst I was down there... now my budding all-encompassing reference library has a home. I was worried I wouldn't have enough space for all my books, now it looks like I need more.

Feeling bad about not having been putting in time around here for a few days, I endeavored to dig up some of the more useless ornamental flowering shrub/bush things that are lying wilted all over the front yard by where the original turn-of-the-century farmhouse used to sit, between my house and the road.

There's a row about 20ft long of whatever these are, along what used to be the back of the house... so they've been there since at least 1980 when the old house was torn down. There's a decent chance they've been in-ground for the better part of a century. Having only managed to dig up four of them in several hours, including giant potato-like roots more than 5 inches across, it wouldn't surprise me. Yeeeeeesh. I have the sneaking suspicion I'll be re-digging up stragglers from these things for years, no matter how carefully I try to get everything up out of the ground. They just have that "I spread and survive no matter what you do to me" look to them.

Finally met my neighbor Brian. He's a volunteer firefighter, works with garage doors, and seems like a great guy. The lovely Rhode Island Reds who visit my yard each morning for forage are his, and he offered to get me some fresh eggs in the short term, and some free hens next spring once I'm ready for them. Nothing says "great neighbor" like free chickens.

Headed back down to Columbus tonight to see some friends and get a head-start on cleaning out the last of my old apartment, which has to be done by Monday. Ugh.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

You know you've been working hard when...

I actually found straw in my underpants today. That has to be some kind of important farmer's right of passage, right?

Got a tremendous amount of stuff done today. And I am very sore. And a proper update is forthcoming, likely tomorrow night, once I'm too tired to do anything but type.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

first big Work Weekend...

(An awesome antique pair of safety glasses that I found in a box of tools my dad gave me)

My parents came up to the farm to help this weekend, and as a result we got a huge amount of stuff done. Company counts for extra hands, good company, and motivation. And after two days of absolutely busting ass, I'm completely bushed and seriously considering hitting the sack at 7:30. Down at dusk, up at dawn?

I spent Saturday morning shopping for provisions (it's well past the time to actually get some food in the house), and met my parents up at the farmhouse just after lunchtime. I showed my mom (who's never seen the place until this weekend) around. She's no easy sell on anything, but fortunately she really likes it. Anyone who has a mother may well understand that going into 30 years of debt to purchase something your mother hates is a very bad idea.

My dad brought up a sizable quantity of plastic and wooden barrels from his secret supplier back home... the brown ones will be used as rain barrels, the white ones cut in half to make makeshift cold-frames, and the wooden ones just look awesome and will likely become habitats for plants of various sorts. Pleased to say I'm getting them cheap.

After unloading the trailer, we used my dad's van to rip out about 12 dead/dying juniper bushes that had been planted around the house at some point, likely around the time of it's construction. Yanking out bushes with a tow chain and a giant vehicle is a seriously fun process, made even more fun by the opportunity to break out my Fiskars chopping axe and go to town on the root systems to help them come out. In doing so I learned that I have a moderate topical allergy to whatever juniper bushes get on/in you when you get knee-deep in them... my shins have been itching nonstop since I did...

My new truck driving, poop-delivering friend Jim showed up with a truckload of composting manure around 5pm, and dumped it behind one of my barns. Man, what a huge pile of poop!

We took some of the super-awesome sandstone blocks I scored on Craigslist and made a big fire circle around a tree-stump that needs removed. This will continue to be the site of all large fires in the future.

Had the first meal at my new house that night that involved either plates or sitting down. Cooked up a decent meal, had some wine, and hung out and talked with my folks until we passed out (this took approximately five minutes).

First thing Sunday morning (second if you count making coffee) we got a fire going inside the circle on the tree stump and burned up the Juniper bushes. They go up fast and hot, and then are gone in just a few minutes. I'm still amazed that so much bush turned into a tiny little pile of ash.

I got a fair amount of sheet mulching done on Sunday... an area that starts in front of the front porch and curves around the house, bordering the area set to become a brick floored patio next spring after I get the old deck torn off.

I learned that an amount of compost doesn't go nearly as far as you think it will, but an amount of straw will go much farther than you think it will. I'm learning the interesting properties of various materials as I go here.

We were visited mid-morning by my neighbor's chickens (a crew of lovely Rhode Island Reds and the sorriest rooster I've ever seen), who seemed much intrigued by all the new stuff I'd crammed in the overhang of the goat barn...

My dad spent some time digging juniper stumps and regrading some dirt by the house to encourage water to run away from the foundation, rather than towards it. My mom went on her usual cleaning binge and ended up washing all my windows and the entire exterior surface area of the house. Bless her heart! That was pretty much last on my list.

After the sheet mulching wore me out, I got to work wire-brushing my outdoor woodstove so I could hit it with the Rustoleum later. Whatever tiny shred of energy I had left was gone after that, and I was reduced to shuffling and griping for the remainder of the day. My father, of course, helped with that.

They're now headed back home, and I'm blessed with a hot shower and internet access here, both for the first time. It's a damn good thing, as my clothes were dirty enough to stand up by themselves and my inbox was crammed (and yet, nothing important?)

I'm tired as hell and sore as I can remember being in a while, but to say I'm grinningly-happy would be a massive understatement. The work I'm doing comes with plenty of purpose, and that makes hard work good.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Moving, part 2

I woke up this morning, today being my 27th birthday, having spent the first night in the house I now own. Each room features a small shrine of boxes and haphazardly placed furniture. I still feel exhausted, but am surprisingly only mildly sore.

The view out my kitchen window, of the sun coming up across a neighbor's fields and just to the left of my most decrepit barn, was a lovely way to start the day. It was all I could do to force myself into my truck and down the highway to work, away from the house, the rest of the day's usable daylight, and about a million projects that I can't wait to get started on.

Yesterday, after a long day spent moving the remainder of my possessions up to the farmhouse, my dad and I walked the property and spun plans and potential out of what sits there currently... how to best modify my long barn for keeping goats and rabbits, what I need to do to repair the in-ground drainage system around the drip-edge of the roof, where the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing garden paths should run, and what to do with the lousy excuse for a front porch I currently have. The act of walking around, seeing and touching each thing across such a large expanse and having to constantly remind myself, "this is mine" continues to be a surreal experience that I'm not quite used to.

I can only hope that visitors will be capable of seeing the tremendous potential of this place, that I can explain myself well enough to get across what I plan to do and how I hope it will all come out.

I explored the back woods and creek more thoroughly just before sunset last night. I found: tons of rocks that will soon see use as garden paths and accents, enough deadfall wood to last several cold seasons in the woodstove, half a dozen rusted out 55-gallon drums (very much hoping they were just discarded burn barrels and weren't home to some kind of chemical at the time they were discarded), a rusted apart old box spring, an ancient and rotted battery the size of a football (cringe), and two giant pieces of farm machinery mired in the creek near the south edge of my property line. Fortunately they appear to be the kind of thing that gets drug behind a tractor, and not the kind of thing that's been perpetually leaking engine chemicals into the creek since someone had the bright idea of running it into the creek as an efficient means of disposal... but all this is making me think I ought to get the creek water tested before I go using it for anything.

Spending the night in my gutted apartment tonight... after sitting stagnant in the well line for some six months, the water at the farmhouse still needs treated with bleach to be safe. I am in now past desperate need of a shower. While I'm here I figured I'd update the blog and pack a load from the odd and loose bits that always remain scattered about after a move. My bed now 50 miles away in my new house, I'll be sleeping on the floor

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Moving and Poop, Part 1

So this weekend began the big move... getting the majority of my huge pile of crap from various points around central Columbus up to the farmhouse (and then later dealing with an actual huge pile of crap). My father came up from Cincinnati with the big van he uses to do antique shows and a borrowed 10'x15' trailer to help.

Yesterday also saw the first non-family farm visit. My friends Jenny and Walker drove up from Columbus to help us with the very urbane task of spreading a giant trailer-load of composting horse manure in preparation for next year's gardening.

I got the manure for free from a local horse farm, who was kind enough to help me load it in my trailer with a Bobcat.

Once we got it to the farm, we made a small pile near the house and then drove the rest out to the flat space which has traditionally been the garden bed on this property. Flat, even, and well drained, it's placement was not accidental, and I fully plan on continuing to keep veggies growing there.

Spreading the mixture out proved a large task, and so my father and Walker decided to employ the van/trailer combo and Walker's body weight to mechanically spread the manure/compost mix by driving over it, an activity which quickly assumed the name "Poop Surfing." Despite being quite amusing to watch, it did a fairly lousy job of actually spreading the stuff evenly, so we took up hand tools and got to work.

We were visited by my Micky, a one year old basset hound that lives next door, quickly followed and leashed by Kristi, my very nice neighbor from next door. Introductions were made, one of their kittens sauntered over, decided it wanted to come be friends with everyone, and (apparently) live in my garage forever, judging by the amount of effort it expended trying to get in there.

In the end, what seemed at first to be a truly epic pile of poop turned out to be barely a thin layer across just that one large garden bed, and I think I may have to take the lady at the horse farm up on her offer to have a guy deliver a dump truck's load of the stuff for $100. I've got many more garden beds to prep, and the more of the stuff I get on the ground, the more I can plant and grow next year. No sense limiting potential this early in the process.

After we got the stuff spread, we ventured out (about 20 miles) to nearby (cough, cough) Marion to grab some dinner. After a gutbusting meal at Ralphie's featuring fried macaroni and cheese, Walker eating three sourkraut-laden hot dogs called German Shepherds, and a dessert so large that four healthy hungry people were unable to finish it, we returned to the farm just in time to receive delivery of 20 bales of hay, courtesy of another local neighbor, Keith.

As of this Sunday morning, we're two huge trips in and still have a ways to go, including a fair majority of my furniture. We went to bed rather early last night, worn out by the long day, but we're up-and-at-em this morning. If all goes as planned we'll get another big load of my posessions moved and some serious planning and garden area layout accomplished.

My father's out of the shower and ready to go. Another day!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Early this afternoon, I closed on my farmhouse. The big move starts this weekend.

So much work to be done!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

closing tomorrow...

At 1pm tomorrow, I close on the farmhouse.

To say that I'm excited would be a severe understatement. The six months leading up to this point have been filled with a unique brand of stress that I can't quite name and might not wish on my worst enemy.

For the property's grand inauguration of the property, the 'champagne bottle across the bow,' so to speak, I'll be plotting out and sheet mulching next year's veggie garden plots all this weekend, in one smelly extended orgy of composted horse manure, yard waste, and straw. Oh yeah, and moving all my stuff in, too.

Advil, anyone?