Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's All Bull&hit Or That Bites

     Ed put up the trim up around the man cave doors, and it looks great. It's solid and heavy, just like the doors. We are still looking for rustic iron hinge straps and door hardware that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Now he's working on the newel post and the rest of the rail and trim for the stairs.  It's the last thing before we can get the house finaled. You know...before we're supposed to move in.

    Another one of those last details was the outside stair rails. We were one rail short (don't ask) on the back steps and had to wait a week to finish this project. Ed doesn't wait well. When the delivery truck arrived, Ed was anxious to get it in. This requires drilling holes in the cement to anchor the bottom of the rail. That requires a masonry that works. Ed had a Vermont American bit that he'd bought previously. It lasted two holes and burnt to a crisp. You'd think with a name like Vermont American that the darned thing would be made in...well...Vermont..or at least America. Not. It, like so many things that are poor quality, was made in China. So, Ed had to wait (again) until we went into town to buy a Bosch bit, made in Germany.


 Once he had equipment that worked, the rail went up quickly. People may still fall down the stairs, but at least they'll have something to grab on to on the way down.

   Because the weather here is less than friendly to vegetable gardens, tomatoes in particular, we had discussed building a greenhouse. The little garden between the house and the chicken coop is a good size, but it gets too much shade for anything but the berries. The only flat location for a good sized greenhouse is down in the pasture. It would be a major project, and while Ed doesn't shy away from a large project, it did present several problems.  The whole thing would need to be fenced against the elk. That's a big fence. It's some distance from the house. I would need to take the Gator down any time I expected to haul produce back up to the house. We'd have to find a water source for those few times a year I'd need to water the plants. And most importantly, when I finally hit 85, am I still going to want to drive down there to pick some lettuce?  What to do?
     As I sat on the back porch with a cool beverage, it hit me. The answer was right under my nose...literally.
Directly below the back deck, right up next to the cement retaining wall was a long flat strip of ground being used for nothing but a place to mow.  Perfect!
   After I explained my idea to Ed, we started looking around for materials. What do we need, and what do we already have? In the construction left-over pile, we had some 2x12 boards used for scaffolding, a huge pile of forming stakes and some PVC pipe. We need about 9 cubic yards of decent topsoil.
 We called Sam Longtain again.
   "You're in luck." he says "I'm levelling a site on an old farm, and I have a load in the truck right now."
   He brought out a load of the most beautiful, weed free, unlumpy, clayless soil this side of a garden center I've ever seen. It's all I can do to stop myself from jumping up and down and clapping my hands.

  So Ed started forming up the raised beds, using material we already had. I'd like to say I dug out all the grass and weeds in that raised bed area, but it would be a lie. I'll probably pay for that later.
    Ed used the tractor to load dirt into the Gator, then drove it to the back of the house. The dump bed on that Gator has paid for itself over and over, and saved us hours of backbreaking labor. The last bit on the end was closer to the slope, and we couldn't position the Gator to dump the dirt. Instead, we brought the dirt around in the Gator, transferred it to a wheelbarrow, and rolled into position.
Once the dirt was in the raised bed, Ed mounted a pressure treated 2x4 along the top of the block wall (masonry bit again) then put lag bolts every 4 feet, leaving them sticking out about an 1 1/4" . Using some left over 3/4" schedule 40 PVC, he made hoops that curved around and fit over more forming stakes driven in on the outside of the box.
   At the far end I'll fasten 6 mil clear plastic for a greenhouse area in the spring for tomatoes and other more delicate vegetables. The rest will be covered with bird netting to deter deer, rabbits, birds and hopefully raccoons. The netting is very tangly and I'm hoping it will do the trick.
    It's convenient to the house, close to a water source, and as I get older, more easily accessible. The whole thing is 60'x4'.  If I can't grow what I need in 240 square feet, I need to study up on gardening.
     Although the dirt is beautiful, we decided it could a boost. I called the local landscape supply place for steer manure.
     There was a pause..." have dairy compost, though."
     Really? Is it different if it comes from girl cows rather than boy cows?  I should have known. This is dairy country, not beef cattle country. We took the truck and picked up 2 cubic yards of black gold.
     It must be the genetic farm girl in me. I just don't mind the smell. We brought two yards of  "dairy compost" back by wheelbarrow and dug it into the topsoil.  During the winter when the two honeysuckle plants are dormant, I'll relocate them.
     I could hardly contain myself. I fished out my seed packets to see what I could put in the ground NOW. I planted cabbage, kale, garlic, onion seeds, and  sugar peas. The whole time I was planting I could hear the darned chipmunks chirping, watching, chirping, moving closer, watching, waiting, watching.  Oh no! I'm on to you. I've had you sneak in and dig up my seeds before! I staked down bird netting nice and tight over the surface of the soil. Once the sugar peas sprout, I'll move the netting higher.