Farmhouse Projects – The Christmas Tree

In a previous post, I mentioned twelve future projects we wish to be able to do around the farmhouse. The easiest one on that list is what I call The Christmas Tree. It was my husband’s project, and his obsession for a while. The Christmas tree is a young pine tree he was able to save when we took down a morass of weeds and overgrown bushes covering the front and part of the side of the property, near the entrance. He liked the tree, although it was in bad shape. I thought it would not make it because it had been sprayed by the city (or our electric company) with something they use to kill anything that would be a threat to utility cables. Although this tree was not nearby, when they sprayed some trees that were, some of this brew got on it and it burned some of the branches. The other trees dried up and died. Those were not on our property, but next to it. Once we had cleared out the bushes and weeds, my husband kept mowing around the tree, and trimming it. Eventually, he wanted to put white lights on it and make it a focal point. A few weeks ago, I noticed that the tree was looking much healthier, so I ordered solar lights for it without my husband knowing, as a surprise. It still has some brown spots and dead branches, but I think it will become a beautiful tree.

This weekend we were able to work on the tree. We even named it. We named it Christmas. Here are a few pictures of this first project.

First, we trimmed some dead branches and cleaned up the trunk a bit. You can still see some of the burnt branches.
We used some cinnamon color pine needles we collected, and used these as mulch around the base. We placed and secured the lights on top as best as we could and tested them for best sun exposure.
We took care of other chores until it became dark. It turned out to be a gorgeous sunset and evening.
And then we saw it happen; Christmas lighted up. It is a bit difficult to photograph all the lights because these do not light up at the same time. We used 200 white LED solar lights.

On Sunday, we visited it once more, and we love the way it looks. I think it turned out to be a very special tree. I think this tree found its purpose. As it becomes more beautiful with time, it will light up every night, and become a beautiful sight for those who pass by. Because we are not able to see it from home, we will visit it from time to time. I might place a bench nearby. Sometimes, things may look hopeless, but with a little bit of care and patience they turn out lovely.

Twelve Farmhouse Projects – Dead Tree

Following up on my latest blog post about future farmhouse projects, we have taken one off the list, or should I say, it took itself off the list yesterday. The large dead tree fell, and that left us with one less tree to take down, however, with a large mess to clean up. Because I started the Twelve Farmhouse Projects series of posts, I thought it would be natural to share the update. Here are a few pictures.

A few pieces scattered around as it fell. The crows will not like this; they used to perch on that tree.
Not sure how easy it would be to cut into pieces. There was a dried up poison ivy plant on that tree.
View of the base. The rot is evident.
At least there won’t be any stumps to take out of the ground.

That takes care of one tree, two to go. The most important one is the one near the home. Slowly but surely.

Garden Offerings

Now that I have shared how the garden has come along, it occurred to me to write about its blessings. Although, I took on a small garden project as a kid, for a short time (kid’s curiosity), and later on in life rekindled that love when I planted my first small flower garden when I lived in Jersey, it is now that I feel I have the time and place to be more creative and enjoy a garden.

Although we have had a very hot and humid summer here in Virginia, I am pleased with how the veggie garden has produced so far. The flower garden did very well during the spring, and by now, it is declining, although there are a few flowers due to bloom now. Despite watering almost everyday, the heat has taken a toll on the plants. The sweet peas, which were doing so well, dried up during the last week. I was lucky enough to harvest some peas on three occasions. The peppers are still growing and thriving; no signs of a pepper yet. I have to say that when planting from seeds, it takes a long time to harvest something, especially peppers. Next year, I might try a small portable greenhouse to start seeds earlier. I tried to do that indoors, but one of my cats had a party with the tiny plants. Tomatoes are doing well, however, compared to last year, I am dealing with tomato rot (I think that is what it is called). It is when tomatoes turn dark underneath, just before they are ready to be picked. I have had to discard some. I read that it is not recommended to eat them because the tomato skin has broken and it might contain bacteria. I don’t think that the seeds will do well for next year. I will start fresh. Cucumbers are doing very well this year, with a couple of them turning yellow before they grow more. Last year, cucumbers didn’t do as well. Lettuce is doing great this year, and I have collected so much, that I gave some away to my neighbor. All four varieties are doing great. Soon, I will be sharing tomatoes and cucumbers because it seems that those are going to produce much this year. The grape tomatoes are doing well too. Compared to last year, carrots are slow. I planted the rainbow baby carrots and also the regular ones. One plant I introduced this year is potato. I picked a few, a plant nearby the carrots. I read that potatoes and carrots should not be planted nearby (who knew?). Bugs are absent this year; last year caterpillars where an issue, and ate most of the lettuce. I was using several organic pesticides, and they did not perform well. This year I have not seen many bugs, and I used Sevin only once, so maybe that has to do with it.

Keeping a garden journal has helped me keep track of things/issues I would have forgotten already. I also use it to plan future areas in the garden. When I started gardening, I was not sure if I wanted to keep one but I tried it anyway.  I have found it very useful, especially when correcting mistakes from the previous year. This year’s entry might read – Please, do not plant potatoes next to carrots; no, don’t do it!

If the hot weather continues, I am not sure how well the harvest will go this year. Here are some pictures of some veggies I have collected so far. Hopefully, there will be more,  despite the heat. Also, pictures of the flower garden offerings.

I noticed that fresh vegetables do not last as long in the refrigerator as supermarket ones; they become soft sooner, especially lettuce. I was keeping lettuce in a glass bowl in the crisper section of the fridge, but decided to keep the plastic trays that are used for fruit when you buy it at the supermarket, and what a difference does it make. It seems that these plastic trays help keep the veggies crisp longer. Save those, and use them if you can; it works better than glass.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I pick the tomatoes as soon as they start getting soft to the touch. They continue the process inside. Stink bugs like tomatoes.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A mix of veggies as they look before cleaning them.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Various types of lettuce. Journal entry from last year – Caterpillars hate fancy lettuce. They prefer the regular variety.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A few blessings from the flower garden. The perfect hand of God.

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Photo by M.A.D.

These are mini sunflowers. They grow maybe about two or three feet tall, and bloom lovely.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Nature’s lace.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Tons of color.

 

The tiny rose bush that could.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Two different color irises.

 

The unexpected. Plants found around the property while clearing out weeds and bushes. We transplanted them.

 

The magical. Mushrooms galore and a little bit of luck.

 

The most beautiful blue.

 

The new and sublime.

 

The lost and found.

 

The forgotten. As it was then.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I hope you enjoy this post.

The Long Lost Garden

I love flowers and all kinds of plants. Maybe because I have strong memories of my grandmother’s garden when I was a kid. The garden was not large, but it seemed huge to a 4 year old. I felt at ease in it, lost in time in it. Eventually, the garden was eliminated and concrete took its place. The magic was gone.

My favorite style of garden is the English garden. It is wild and free, and at the same time contained by itself. I always thought that an English garden had soul. I dislike manicured gardens that are too planned, symmetrical, and rigid. Where’s the life in that? When we purchased this old house, it had been abandoned for 3-4 years, neglected by previous renters, and the owners where out of state, the heirs to a woman who loved her garden. People who grew up in the neighborhood and knew her, tell me about her love for flowers and plants, and how she used to walk through her garden, admiring it. I am told she was a very tall woman, and neighbors were used to seeing her walk regal amongst her plants. Unfortunately, she fell on an icy day, and never quite recovered. Her beloved home became a rental, and no one took care of her garden the way she did. Eventually, the house fell in disrepair and ended up a dilapidated farmhouse waiting to be demolished, either by time or by people. That is, until we found it and resurrected its soul. This post is about its garden, and about uncovering and working with existing areas in an effort to use the not so obvious/the hard to see potential, and saving money in the process.

The house and premises were covered in overgrown vegetation, and the preexisting garden, if any at that point, was gone. There were a few plantings in bad shape. Unable to move right away, we took short trips to start clearing up the overgrown vegetation, and once under control, hired someone to cut the grass regularly so it wouldn’t grow too wild again. The house sat for another five years until we moved, for a total of eight years. As we cleared the morass of bushes and trees, we got an idea of what could be salvaged and what had to be removed. It was a long process that continues until today, mostly because we are doing it ourselves. Three very large trees remain, two dead trees and one very large near the house. It is diseased and requires professional handling as well as the other two. That will be next on the agenda.

Few plants remained of the original garden. An overgrown hydrangea in bad shape, a tiny rose bush buried in weeds, two dwarf boxwoods that we thought were gone for good but made it. A Rose of Sharon bush that we were able to save, a large bush of ornamental grass, and existing pine trees. We were able to free a forsythia that was growing wild under the siding and spread out high over the porch. Remnants of irises and other small plants were found thriving under bushes and all kinds of weeds. We transplanted those to other areas, hoping for the best. They took to their new area beautifully, almost as if grateful for being freed. Little by little we found bits and pieces of what once was a woman’s beloved garden.

When I think about it, it was a lot of work, hard work. Our neighbors cannot believe the transformation. One neighbor told us that he thought the house was eventually going to be torn down or fall on its foundation. Many people have come to see the house, a house they lived in at one point, played in, or visited. They all approve of the respectful changes, and they all agree that the woman who loved her garden so much would approve of it as well. I am glad they feel that way. It means that we are accomplishing what we set out to do. On this post, I will share some before and after pictures.

Entrance to the house then, and entrance today.

 

One of our latest projects was to add marble chips around the house to prevent weeds from growing. This area was covered in weeds and bushes. All the plantings were existing or transplanted from another area when found. The rose bush has grown healthy and has required a trellis.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Here you can see the forsythia that we cut to shape and trimmed. It seems happy now. All the potted plants have been added or transplanted.

These are the same areas before. On first arrival and after clearing some of the vegetation.

 

The foundation to the house is an original rock foundation, which has been supported with cinder blocks over time. We cleared out the weeds, painted, fixed the crawl space doors, and placed marble chips and potted plants around it. We also added solar lights, and rocks that we collected around the property.

This is a before picture, when we cleared out some of the weeds and grass.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This is the same area now. Here you can see the trimmed Hydrangea bush and existing irises. The pine tree in this picture was found as a tiny (2 inches) planting that I thought looked interesting enough, and I potted it. It turned out to be this beautiful pine (cedar) tree. Eventually, we will cover the exposed cinder blocks with cement and repaint the area. On this picture you can see the original stone foundation. One thing we made sure to do before buying the place was to hire an inspector to make sure the foundation and structure were in good shape. Those were fine.

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Photo by M.A.D.

The marble chips were placed all around the house. Here you can see two existing bushes that we were able to save, after trimming them, and also one of the dwarf boxwood trees behind the bird bath. This boxwood was almost dead and it has come back slowly. The lily is also an existing plant. We added all the large stones found around the property. The Hostas and Hen and chicks plants are new, and added to the area. These were brought from my garden in Jersey. All the statues are recycled from my previous home in Jersey, and so is the bird bath.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Here you can see the other dwarf boxwood and other recycled plants.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Here are some pictures of the same areas before. The dwarf boxwood looks brown and dying.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

A before view of the same steps where you can see the boxwood better.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This is the side entrance area. There were no plantings, only weeds. This area was challenging to work with.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Same area as it is today. New plantings have been added to the area, as well as recycled. All pots in the garden are recycled.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

We worked with some existing areas by keeping some of the plantings, and adding stones and new or transplanted plants. Here is one of those areas before.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Same area as it is today. The only existing planting was the bush in the center, The rest was transplanted from other areas of the property. This area blooms throughout the year. In early spring the irises bloom first, followed by the lambs ear, and later in the summer other plantings bloom. A solar light and a couple of statues and rocks dogged around the property were added.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This area is directly under the giant cedar tree. It is one of the oldest trees around the house, and possibly older than the house, as I am told. We cleared/cleaned the area and added existing plantings around the tree. Red mulch was added as well.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

The giant cedar before. Today, it looks healthier.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Other existing areas that we were able to save. Before, after clearing the area a bit and cutting the grass.

Same area as it is today.

 

I have mentioned the faerie garden on a separate blog post, and it is one area in which we added much to it while working with existing elements. The area before and after.

 

There are a few new areas, and that includes the veggie garden which was not there, and what I call the circle of flowers. Pictures of this area before. Today, the circle of flowers is where the overgrown bushes are, and the veggie garden a few feet right behind.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

The veggie garden

 

I created the circle of flowers because I wanted an area full of color, where I could pick some flowers to bring inside. It started with clearing out a circle where old stumps remained, and placing some stones we collected around the property. We planted some seeds, and many of them continue to grow and bloom today. Next to it, we created another circle (still needs the stones around) where we planted sunflowers. They have not bloom yet, but soon they will. As of today, they are a lot taller.

 

This concludes the outdoor changes so far,  although there are many other plans. We created areas around the home, and separate, individual new areas. Instead of tearing everything down, we worked with existing areas that had potential, by first uncovering them, salvaging some plants, and adding to these areas.

Little me in my grandmother’s garden. Hope you enjoyed this post.

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Photo by M.A.D.

No More Skeletons in the Faerie Garden

Continuing with the old farmhouse posts, I will do another before and after of the garden area. It had been a lot of hard work to start getting this old place into shape, and this year, it is starting to look a bit better. It has been almost five years since we moved here. For those of you who are wondering what happened to the older posts, I had an out of body experience and one day woke up wanting to make this blog only about writing. Without a second thought, I deleted all those posts and the memories with them. Later, the alien inside my brain crawled out and I realized that this approach was not working for me, and I missed the old ways. I am more a glimpse on all sides person, so I decided to bring back those glimpses on this blog. I don’t think I can get back the deleted posts, so I am moving forward with some before and after posts. Hope you enjoy these.

The faerie garden was an area that was covered in bushes and weeds. It had a large carcass of a dog or coyote (I could not tell the difference) resting on a small piece of concrete. After clearing out the brush in the area, we discovered that the small concrete area was under grass that had taken over and continue to grow atop, alongside some moss. We scraped the area and uncovered a generous size concrete circle where we decided to place some patio furniture, a grill, and create a small faerie garden, which has always been a little dream of mine. The area has a large amount of kelly green moss growing and expanding, and I have always been a fan of moss, so it happily worked out. Every year, I add something to the area, whether plantings or any decorative feature. We tried to work with was already there, and it works for us. Here are some pictures of the faerie garden area before.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This is the area as it looked before, although we had cleared out a bit at that point, the skeleton gone. There was an electricity pole that one day just disappeared. It was puzzling; how does a gigantic pole disappears? When we inquired, it happened that when the previous owner closed her account after selling the property, the electric company came and took the pole out of the ground. I found it hilarious. Here are two different views, one of them uncovering the concrete circle.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Here are a few pictures of the area as it is today. I am sure that we will add to it over the years, more on the form of plantings, garden lights and stones. The flowers in that area will bloom around late spring/June. It is mostly a shaded area so I am happy that something blooms.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A closer look of the critters and mossy area.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Viewed from another angle. Al the stones, wood, and cinder blocks were found on the property, either around or in the woods behind. We dogged out many stones. The goal was to utilize what was already there, and find a way to create areas with purpose. When we start a project, we set a very low budget, and we consider existing/found/recycled/reused/restored/vintage first before spending on new. This approach has worked out for us.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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We added solar lighting to the area by  utilizing recycled wood, and painting it. All the outdoor lighting is solar. The area continues to emerge over the years.

I hope you enjoyed this post of the faerie garden. I will post more before and after pictures of other outdoor areas/projects in the future, as well of the farmhouse work.