Rotten Tomatoes (and moldy leaves)


One of my goals for this year is to have a garden that is so bountiful that it feeds not just my family during the summer, but also gives me produce to can and freeze for winter and for gifting.

That’s probably overly optimistic, but one way I’m trying to give myself a chance is by working to create beautiful soil. And how does one build beautiful soil? The key is compost.

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Taking Shelter

Fully loaded

One of the ways we got lucky with this house was all the stuff that was left behind — a smoker, many planks of hardwood lumber, lawn and garden equipment, and at least eight (maybe more?) cords of seasoned firewood.

The firewood was lovingly stacked in six long rows — four on an upper field and two near our back patio. The wood is heavy oak and birch and has been drying for several years under the protection of heavy tarps.

But, as appreciative as I was for this bounty of firewood, I didn’t love where it was stacked — especially the wood by the back patio. It was a bit of an eyesore and sat right in the middle of what would otherwise have been an open area. I decided that what we needed was a true woodshed where the firewood could be properly stacked and protected. I wanted it to remain easy to access, but also not in the middle of the back yard. Project time.

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Chicken Run

Chicken Close-Up

I guess we became “chicken” people when my wife brought nine chicks home from Tractor Supply in late April. Or maybe it was when I “rescued” a baby quail (I nicknamed it Danny Quail) my dog found in the yard and I then paired with four more chicks so it could be raised in a family.

Could it have been when I spent hours and hours figuring out the best coop to build (or buy)?

It definitely wasn’t when we gave away five of our chickens when they revealed themselves to be roosters and thus had to be separated from each other. But it might have been when we brought a new rooster into the flock and named him Elvis Cluckstello.

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En Garde(n)

Among the many reasons we moved out to the country — space, quiet, nature, workshop — perhaps the top consideration was plenty of space for a garden. Or, better yet, multiple gardens.

We got that, for sure, including lots of existing garden beds that were already well established. So over the summer we’ve been working to expand what was in place and create new space for veggies, flowers and more.

I’ve already written about our wildflower projects. Those meadows are well underway and beginning to pop with color. And I’ve also written about the greenhouse we put up last fall. But those are just the beginnings of our efforts.

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Cornhole in One

A few months ago, I decided to make some outdoor games for when friends come over. I started with a simple oversized Jenga set using leftover 2x4s from the dog kennel demolition. And while folks do seem to love Jenga — especially when a falling tower has the potential to break a toe — I decided I needed to add a less destructive game to the mix. Cornhole to the rescue.

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Pulling Posts (Fence, not Blog)

The previous owner of our property ran a dog boarding business and as part of his setup, he built a nice fenced-in area behind the house. It’s a livestock-style wire fence with large wooden posts — some are eight inches in diameter — sunk deep into the ground. Since I’m not running a dog boarding business, I don’t really need (nor do I want) this fence. I’d rather open things up to give the property a more free-flowing feel. But how do I go about pulling these posts, each of which may weigh 50 pounds or more and are sunk three to four feet into the ground? Physics to the rescue.

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Softening the Hardscape

As previously described, I’m incredibly lucky to have a large shop on our property in the form of a four-bay garage. However, being a four-bay garage, it sits as a rather large and imposing structure at the top of our driveway. It’s not exactly inviting.

In an attempt to rectify this, I decided what was needed were some wooden planters filled with colorful flowers. This would soften the brown and brick façade and also give me a relatively quick and easy weekend project to work on.

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For the Bird(houses)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy working on a wide variety of projects, including rebuilding small engine carburetors, taking down fencing, building garden plots, creating a wildflower field, replacing a well pump, and minor auto repairs, among other things.

It’s one of the “other things” I’m writing about today: building and hanging birdhouses. A dozen of them, actually, from small chickadee abodes to huge owl boxes. They’re fun to build, relatively easy, relatively cheap and provide joy for years. Building them is the easy part. The hard part is mounting them high enough on trees. But that’s nothing a little cleverness can’t solve.

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