29 March 2016

Permaculture - inspired landscape design: dirt

Today things finally had thawed enough to get the skidsteer going. 

The giant windrow of composted barnyard stuff is somewhat mixed... There are bits that are just slimy hay, bits that are gorgeous compost, and bits that are what amounts to quack grass sod. 

This means that what you end up with is kinda lumpy. 

However, I managed without breaking anything - not even a fence post. (This is actually quite an accomplishment for me, the skidsteer is persnickety and I'm far from an expert.)

Once I had lots of piles of dirt in place, I got the rake and started moving it around. Big chunks got tossed over by the chicken coop fence, where I hope to grow some squash and sunflowers so the lumpiness won't matter. Lots of the partially decomposed stuff went by the retaining wall, where there will be lots of things planted that will appreciate it and help it break down the rest of the way. 
The smoothest stuff went in the barrel around the well head - it'll get planted with flowers so it looks like a container, and as a side benefit, the well head itself is much more protected. 

It was a lot of work but I'm very pleased. 

Yes, I let the chickens out to scratch in the fresh dirt. They seemed appreciative. 

There's more raking to be done, but what's there needs to settle and thaw the rest of the way. I have another big pile to spread out, and more loads to bring out to other low spots around the house, but that was a good day's work. 

Oh - I scraped off a bit of "sod" and took a picture of what our soil looks like :

Clay. Just... Clay. 

This is why I'm not a vegetarian anymore - there's no way our particular patch of land could grow much beyond pasture grasses... But it grows those well. And then the animals turn the quack grass into this stuff:

Which grows lots of things. :)

21 March 2016

Permaculture - inspired landscape design

I've been reading a lot of permaculture books - lots of emphasis on water management and designing for ease of use and maintenance. 

I have decided to do some substantial levelling and terracing this year, as the skidsteer is working again and I have a very big pile of finished compost (five years or more of barnyard waste!) ready to be moved once things warm up. I cleared it all into a long windrow last fall, and the freeze / thaw cycles of the winter should have it nicely broken down by the time I get to it. 

We need to improve the drainage near the north wing of the house: too much water settles near the foundation and the sump pump has to work overtime to keep up. I started a bit last fall, but the bigger work is for the summer. 

I began with a bit of a retaining wall made of fallen trees and branches and a bit of rebar for stability. 

The space above the wall will be backfilled and levelled to make a flat play area, and the berm itself planted with willows and raspberries and whatever else I can get my hands on - a few evergreens (which will have white Christmas lights strung through them, because winter nights are long and those will be visible from the north living room windows), some poplars (no shortage of those), saskatoons (if I can get cuttings to root), cherries (ditto), and apples. 

The near side of the berm, which is closer to the house and will be a little shaded and a little soggy, will get hops vines, morning glory, flowers of all sorts, clover, and ornamental grasses and grains. That should stabilize the bank and give us a lovely view as well as be productive food-wise. 

There's a spot for a narrow step stone stairway by the chicken coop, and the lowest section will be a drainage path for water to run down towards the pasture - though it'll be caught in several tree planted berms on the way down. Between the hose outlet on the house and the barnyard is a clear not-too-steep ramp, and beyond that will be another cluster of plants along a second berm to help hold up the levelled top part of the yard. 

Out in the Northwest corner of the yard are a couple of spots for tree clusters - windbreaks, primarily, as that's where it generally comes from. They will go either side of the gate to the back of the barnyard, so we can get the skidsteer up through there when needed. The rest of the North side needs levelling and then it'll get planted with the nice grass mix we used out front last year. As more trees show up, the north edge of the property, along the road, will get filled in to make a deeper windbreak. At the corner of the driveway, outside Missy's bedroom, we will put in a cluster of evergreens, willows, and a lilac and a cherry tree as per her request. :) That should also help ease the drifting across the end of the driveway, once they get established. 

I have some plans for the east side of the house, too - it's where you first come in, and it still looks rather... Construction-ish. 

Last year saw the south yard basic landscape work done, this year will be the west yard and major earthworks and levelling... And lots and lots of tree planting. See? Apple and pear seedlings! There's hops vines and more treelings in another pot, too, and a bucket of willow branches soaking in water and slowly forming roots. 

I'm very excited about it all. 

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait a little bit longer... This is what I woke up to today :

I know. It'll melt. But still. 

03 March 2016

Upcycled wool sweater

My slippers had holes in the heels. 

I had a partially felted itchy wool sweater. 

I felted it the rest of the way by washing on hot / cold, then cut out sole pieces. 

Mended the heel holes with wool yarn that will felt into a patch with wear, then stitched the sole pieces on with colourful weaving cotton. 

Voila. Warm feet.