Saturday, October 31, 2009


It seems there is always 1 tree in the yard that holds onto its leaves much longer than the others. We have a pair of small maples by the trellis. As in other years, the larger of them was the last tree in the yard to change colors. It was a brilliant red and orange color. Its time was up. Yesterday was a dark and windy day, and the majority of the leaves finally fell. I raked them up, and finished filling the compost bins. Now, the raking is officially done. I then mowed the grass one more time. I'll be taking the mowing deck off soon and getting the plow blade on the tractor in a few weeks.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


"A little whimsy now and then, practiced by the wisest men."
- Willy Wonka

As I promised in a previous post, I thought I'd show you some whimsical items in our yard left by the previous owners. We had 2 'birdhouses' over in the shade garden (the shade garden is a garden by the driveway which has mostly hostas). I recently moved these items over to the 'wildflower' garden by the east side of the yard. The wildflower garden has an assortment of irises, lilies, and other easy-to-care-for plants. We already have a white birdbath and a little white religious statue in the wildflower garden, so I thought some more white items would fit in.

These birdhouses are made with old table legs and craft-style miniature birdhouses. You can see they were painted white, and are now pretty worn. Still - they are fun and add a bit of whimsy. I will keep an eye out for white statuary for this part of the yard.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Morning Comes to Spook Hill

Even at 7:00 this morning, the sun had yet to rise. As I looked out the window across the road I could see the morning fog over Spook Hill. It is a cold and rainy day, one for sitting by the fire, listening to music, savoring a cup of coffee.

I am not sure what the hill across the street is actually called, but if you follow the road by the hill there is a house with a sign in the yard saying 'Welcome to Spook Hill'. We liked the name, and now that's what we call this view. As the day progresses we watch the fog swirl down the hill and then fade as the day brightens. The wild flowers of summer have now given way to browns, blacks and dark greens. Soon, the hill will be white.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Visitor

I was a cold morning. We had a hard frost, and there was a cold fog coming over Spook Hill. As I was walking out to my car, I saw a movement out behind the old maple tree near the barn. I stopped and saw a doe walking near the creek.

We don't see a lot of deer. There is fencing on one side of the yard, and the creek is about 4 feet below the bank. It is a natural barrier that hinders deer movement. Besides that, there isn't any significant browsing near us. Across the street behind the neighbor's is a large field. We see deer there on occasion.

To date, I've only seen deer in our yard three times. They've always been down by the creek. The first time was a doe, the second was a doe and fawn, and this time, another doe.

We see tracks in the winter. They will be behind the barn, moving through the yard as they browse. In the late winter, we see tracks up near the house, feeding on our holly bushes. Surprisingly, we've never had problems with deer eating our vegetables or flowers. In the winter, we leave old apples out for the deer to eat. When my niece and nephew come to visit in the winter, they've come with me to see if we have tracks and feed the deer.

It was a treat to see the deer. I'll look around to see if I can find tracks. Maybe we'll have a frequent visitor this fall!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Keeping Busy

The weather forecast was supposed to be cloudy with mixed rain and snow showers. Needless-to-say, the weather forecasters were wrong again. It has been sunny, cool and dry - a good day to work outside and around the barn.

Last weekend I cut the old lock off the door into the first level of the dairy shed. We used to enter this area from the gym, but I like to block off the gym entrance in the winter as we heat the gym but don't want to heat the dairy shed. Once this door was opened, I went and opened the entrance from the first floor of the dairy shed to the second floor. I thought it was going to take me a long time, but, to my relief, the blocked stairway just had a piece of plywood resting on the framing. It wasn't even nailed in. I went up the stairs, and I found the door was just latched shut.

Today, I added a new latch and spring to the dairy shed door. I took the easy way out and just ran a 14 gauge extension cord from the first level up to the second level for my future workshop. Opening the workshop took me a lot less time than I expected. I'll get to moving the tools and workbench in a few weeks. I am excited about the new space as it is very sunny, is bat-dropping-free, and has a smooth floor which is easier to sweep.

Since it was sunny, I decided to finish the raking. I raked out the garden beds (the shade garden and the two planting areas in the front of the house with Sweet Woodruff in them). I put the Sweet Woodruff in last year. It is really filling in this year. When I raked the leaves, you could smell the Sweet Woodruff.

My compost bins were running out of room, so I moved two dump wagons of compost into the vegetable gardens. I turned it over and covered it back with black plastic. Though it was not a good year for tomatoes, it was a good year for compost. It was rich and black. I finished most of the raking, but have a little room for some more leaves. As it rains and then snows, the compost will settle down to give up more room. I'll need it next spring.

I then mowed the grass around the barn (I did not get to it last weekend), cleaned out the gutters, moved some rocks near ramp wall by the barn, and fixed a few 'yard sculptures' (more on them in a future posting). I started around 9:30, and was done by 2:00. Pretty good progress. I guess it's easy to keep busy while the sun is out. Not much left to do before winter hits . . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

Co-ops are for People, Coops are for Chickens

The Chicken Coop

Remnants of the Foundation

I've mentioned we have a shed on our property which used to be a chicken coop. It was a large coop at one time. The concrete foundation is around 30 feet long and 9 feet wide. It had a concrete floor. The present shed sits on the first third of the foundation. There is still the remnants of the door the birds would enter / exit through. There are 2 large doors on the front, one I had to build. I don't think such doors would have been original. I put some metal roofing on the coop a few years ago as the rolled roofing and sub-roof were started to let water through.

The space makes a good place to put the lawn furniture in the winter. It is dry, and the hard floor means its does not get muddy.

We have a picture that a neighbor snapped in the 60's. The garage was not in the photo at it was not built until 1974. You can see the entire length of the coop in the photo. The neighbor noted that when much of the coop was knocked down (my guess was to make way for the garage), the smell was quite awful.

Chicken Feed Trough

I have come across a number of chicken feed troughs in the barn. They all look to be 8 feet long and approx. 7 inches wide. I believe I have about 6 of these. They look to be in good shape and would make good flower boxes if they are cleaned up. I'm not sure what I will do with them.

Early Winter ???

When we awoke this morning there was about 1 inch of snow on the ground. We'll have to get out the Old Farmer's Almanac and see if we are expecting a snowy winter like last year. We don't usually get any appreciable snowfall until mid-November, so this is early.

We were planning a trip to Home Depot later this morning. 'Home Deperate', as I call it, is about 1/2 hour away. I am sure that the snow on the trees as they are changing will look very pretty.

We are expecting repeat snow performances through the weekend. Soon we will be into November ~

"No sun, no snow, no color, November"

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Yes, we are getting snow. It is not sticking on the ground here yet (we are around 900 feet), but it was sticking to the trees and grass on the highest hill I drive over when I came home tonight (it is around 1300 feet). I gotta believe we will have some on the ground in the morning. I find it kind of exciting. I like severe weather and storms. No, this is not a serious blizzard or nor'easter, but it still exciting. I'm glad I spent time last weekend winterizing. All I have left to do is grab the snow shovels and salt bucket and put them on the porch. I could do some more raking, turn the garden over and give the grass one final mow, but I have to wait till everything dries out. We are expecting rain and snow showers all weekend, so it might be a good weekend to work in the barn. All that's lacking is motivation. . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Case of the Missing Church, Part 3

At the water meeting tonight, Ray S. told me he had asked Jerry C. if he knew anything about the house of worship I saw on the 1904 topo map. Jerry did not know anything. I told Ray I would drop a copy of the topo map off with him this weekend (reminder to self - print the map!).

Water, Water, Everywhere . . .

We just got back from a town meeting to discuss an ongoing issue concerning our water.

Forgive this little history lesson . . .

The majority of our town neighbors get their water from the nearby village. Living in the town, we don't have direct voting rights in the village concerning the water system. Over 2 years ago, the village announced that they did not believe they were required to provide water or maintain the system anymore. The system was established roughly 100 years ago and was in need of repair. I was part of an informal committee which was looking at options to assist the affected town residents.

The village stated that we town residents receiving city water should band together and form a water district. The problem with this is that the small number of dwellings would have to absorb all the costs for any future repairs - which could be very large. Needless to say, we were not real motivated to do so.

In tonight's meeting we found out that if we were on a well prior to the district being established, we would not have to be part of it. That being said, we will start immediately to put a well in.

(By the way, we do have a well pump like the one above on our property in the side yard. We bought the well pump and put it on a raised wooden platform that is over the septic tank! It's our little joke. Though it is not actually hooked up, we always tell people you don't want to drink the water...)

I'll be updating this blog to let you know what this entails over the next few weeks. Wish us luck!

* * * * * * *

I almost forgot - we will be getting the main barn and the gym roofed. We got estimates and have selected a contractor who will be starting soon. We will get those section of the old barn roofed in metal roofing. I'll be updating this effort also.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brrrrrr. . .

We had our first hard freeze last night. I had already started to get things ready for the cold. Besides the odd jobs I did yesterday, I also did some last minute fix-it jobs, painting, etc., this weekend before it got too cold. Seems like there is always a last-minute painting task to do before it gets too cold.

We ran the stove all night. It was around 26 degF this morning. The pellet stove is in the living room. Because we close our bedroom door at night, our room gets pretty cold (about 60 degF). The bedspread seemed to collect on my wife's side of the bed, so I was a little cold this morning.

I hope the cold knocked back the knotweed. It was getting dark and rainy when I came home from work tonight, so I did not go down to the creek to check on it.

It was pretty driving into work. The leaves are near peak, and the frost gave everything a nice shine. I love this time of year. It is invigorating. I'll have to make some time this weekend for a walk in the woods before the leaves are all off the trees.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Getting Ready . . .

Let's see . . .
  • I got up this morning,
  • turned up the pellet stove (it's getting cold outside).
  • checked my email (I held off reading the news online as I wanted to read a real paper),
  • made coffee and ate breakfast,
  • got a phone call from my daughter and grand-daughter (my grand-daughter said 'She loves Papa'),
  • went out and bought the New York Times (one of the only good papers left to read),
  • drained the garden hoses,
  • put all the stuff on the deck (chairs, last of the annuals, etc.) in the shed (i.e., converted chicken coop) (yes - I'll do a story on the coop soon) (and yes, winter is coming soon),
  • cut an old lock off the door to the dairy shed entrance to the barn (yes, we have not been able to open this door for 3.5 years!) (I needed to open this entrance if I use the dairy shed for my workshop),
  • trimmed some grass (I mowed the front yard yesterday - decided to trim around he fences, but skipped mowing behind the barn until next weekend),
  • only rowed 5K meters (yeah, I am a slacker - but I did do 20K meters yesterday),
  • took the air conditioners out (we definitely won't be needing them),
  • did some prep work for dinner tonite,
  • made a drink and started to read the Times,
  • made dinner (chicken cordon bleu, risotto, and red cabbage (kinda crazy mix, but went well),
  • ate dinner,
  • continued reading the Times,
  • and watched some TV (yes - PBS)!
It was a cool, but beautiful day. I started to rake leaves yesterday. I am already thinking about getting ready for winter.

It was a good day. I was busy, but had some time to think and relax. Back to work tomorrow (grumble, grumble, . . .).

Life goes on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

5 Reasons I Like my Tractor

I have a Husqvarna GTH 2548 (25 HP, 48" cutting deck, Kohler V-twin engine) we bought 3 1/2 years ago when we moved into our old farmhouse. I have to say, it is the single best thing I have for working in the yard. Here's why:
  1. Mowing the grass is easy and quick.
  2. In the winter I can plow snow. I don't even break a sweat. I can plow my 200 foot driveway after a 3" snowfall in about 15 minutes.
  3. I can hook up a yard wagon (i.e., dump cart) and haul rocks, leaves, dirt, etc. It was a great help as I've been working on the barn.
  4. Raking leaves is easy. You raise the mower deck and turn the mower into a big leaf blower. I raked the entire front yard and hauled the leaves to the mulch pile in about 30 minutes - no blisters or tired shoulders,
  5. The best reason - Uncle Tractor gives rides in the wagon to any fun-loving kid. My niece and nephew (Sidney and Austin) want to get rides as soon as they show up when they visit. One of these days my grand-daughter will be old enough for "Papa Tractor" to give rides!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Diversion

We spent the last few days in Las Vegas. As you can see above, their barns are a little different from my barn. This barn / bar was just off Fremont Street.

We went to the pool, ate, drank, gambled, and went sightseeing. The whole area is fun to visit, but is very unnatural. The only green (besides the money) were the plants and grasses planted everywhere being watered by the Colorado River. I find the concept of a city in the heart of desert somewhat strange. It was hectic, hot, and full of hardscapes - but little in the way of cool, soft and natural landscapes.

Being in Vegas was like being out in the heat - a little feels good, but too much drains you. We got back late last nite. We were tired, but glad to be home. It felt good to sit on my tractor and mow green grass. I need a vacation from my vacation . . .