Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Spring is still springing

One of my favorite areas of our yard is where I planted lots of Phlox. The butterfly love it.

You always know spring is here when you see violets.

And when the humming birds come back - spring is definitely here.
We planted some honeysuckle on each side of the arbor. We try to get as many local plants we can from local growers. We look for things that have proven to do well at our altitude.
We know it is spring when the Lady's Slipper pop up
We see turkey all the time, but in spring the toms look a bit more dashing.

On one of our walks through our property we found more Lady's Slippers that we hadn't seen in the past. We always discover new things when we walk the property.

Yep, it is spring!
We didn't have to wander the property to see the Bobcat. He was outside the front door near the bird feeder and bird bath.

Jim's work with Wild For Life presented him with an awesome experience this spring. He was given the privilege of releasing two Screech Owls.

We invited some friends to join us in the excitement.

Both flew right to the trees and blended in so well - we didn't see them again. Several months latter we heard the trill they make. Not the horrible screech that people associate with them, that is a barn owl. We don't know if they are still in the area but it was nice to hear the sound and have hope that they are doing well.

One of our adventures this spring included climbing the Via Ferrata in West Virginia.

This was the very beginning of the climb. We are both hooked to the rocks by two cables. You have to stay several feet below the person in front of you just in case they fall. Thankfully for us this didn't end up being a concern. But we were properly spaced just in case.
Once at the top we posed for a photo - taken by our guide. You can't do this climb with out a guide. We were glad to have him along.

Friday, December 19, 2014

April 2014 - Spring Returns

It is Spring again and we started having a few warm days so I decided it was time to get my Compost Bin project going. We had one compost barrel and quickly filled it up so we ended up with a pile of compost on the ground. I thought it might be interesting to turn that pile into a raised garden bed and make some stands for new barrels. At my estimate we would need 4 to last us until spring came around again and it was time to plant.
I used this compost bin as an example for setting up my raised bed. This is behind Trout Lily, a local grocery store and sandwich shop. They compost. Of course, the wire is too high for a raised bed but I was told that the wire should wrap under the pile of compost so voles and/or moles can't crawl in from underneath and eat away at the roots of your plants.

The first thing I had to do was create a place to put the compost bed. We still have a lot of logs from when our property was cleared so I decided to use some of them to make a frame for the mesh.

I bought this great saw.
It didn't take long to saw through some of the old pine.

I was so proud I was able to haul this up from the log pile behind me after cutting it the the length I needed.

And soon I had the beginnings of a frame for my raised garden bed. I wrapped the wire mesh around the bottom and up the sides and fastened it with zip ties. 

In this photo you can see where the pile was originally (in the center of the photo). We had two big compost piles that had built up from months of collecting compost. Our one barrel just couldn't handle all that we were creating. Right in front of the solar panels is a nice sunny spot. I thought it would be perfect for another raised garden bed, but soon changed my mind when I started to build the frames for the compost barrels. I decided they needed to be in the sunniest spot in our yard so the compost could really "cook." We had a lot of fly larvae last summer feasting on our food waste and turning it into beautiful compost. I was hoping to re-create that again. So after I had already filled the mesh with last year's compost, I relocated it.

In the summer this area gets sun almost all day. As you will see it worked out perfect as a garden. On top of the wire mesh I put down some cardboard then layered the compost with some peat moss and straw.

After a trip to the hardware store I started the construction of my raised compost bin barrels. The reason I decided to raise them was because I thought it would be much easier to dump them out after they are full. They have a door that screws onto the side of the barrel. They roll on their frame so you can rotate them to get air to the center of the waste (needed for it to rot properly). When ready, you unscrew the door and either shovel out the compost - which we found difficult to do, or you tip it on its side and try to dump it out - which we also found difficult. Having them raised, I hoped, would make emptying the barrels easier - in theory! I'll let you know next spring when I begin to empty them.

This was my first trip to the hardware store by my self for such a big project.
I started construction in the basement because - for me - it was just too cold outside.
Jim helped me on engineering the frames - so they would be able to hold the weight of the barrels.

I was really pleased how it turned out.
I started using them right away. I began with the one farthest away from the solar panels because I was worried they might be in the shade once the sun was lower on the horizon during the winter. I filled the ones closet to the solar panels last. 

Jim's project...

While I was building the compost bin frames Jim was re-working our fire pit and at the same time helping me with construction questions.

He was making some flat areas around the pit because it was difficult to put our chairs on the slopped ground. He also used some of the pine to retain the mulch in the stepped areas. And he roughed up the pine so you wouldn't slip on it. It worked out great.

The fire pit is a great place to enjoy after a hard day's work.
Or a great place to enjoy during a hard day of work!

Now that my garden and compost areas are ready I started  sprouting some seeds for planting after Mother's Day. Why wait till after Mother's Day...

Because chances are good that it will snow just one more time. I also spread oats in big open area in the yard - yep, they got covered with snow, but for them I think it was ok. It didn't stop them from growing.

I'm not sure I mentioned that I tried my hand at making Kombucha. It is a fermented tea that is supposed to be good for you. You find all sorts of varieties in health food stores. This is a strawberry and a peach.

Jim is very brave! It worked out great but I didn't keep making it because I was making more than we could drink. Since it is a bit acidic (like soda) we decided to stick with water...it is the best for you when it comes to your health.

One more great experiment for the spring... I gave Jim a hair cut. I mentioned he is brave. It turned out really well.

The squirrel finally made it to the feeder. He took a flying leap off the bell beside the front door. After several attempts he made it. We decided to let him stay for a while and enjoy his reward. Then after he jumped off we repositioned the feeder so it was about a foot farther away. He gave us mean looks for days after.

We heard some strange noises outside one night and found this little guy on the feeder. He is a flying squirrel. We watched this one and another take several tries before they nailed it. 

On to the next project.