Category Archives: Gardening

We Were Going to Rent a Chipper

Something like this one, but probably not from Amazon.

Between pruning and heavy snow damage, we lost a pile of our fruit, spruce, and lilac branches. Over the winter we tried to burn some of them in the fire pit, but that was  futile as it took more good wood to keep the fire going just to burn up a bit of lilac.

Sadly, this photo was taken today, April 20th.
This was April 19th. Way better.

We lamented about how nice it would be to have a chipper so we could mulch all of the piles up and at least get some benefit from the destruction.

 

We tried advertising locally to see if someone had one that they would like to rent out, but nobody responded, so we started looking at nearby rental businesses.

The problem is that the closest rental place to carry wood chippers is two hours away in Dawson Creek. There’s four hours of driving and at least $50 in gas on top of the $150 a day rental fee.

That’s for a chipper that will handle up to 3″ limbs or trees.

We couldn’t justify spending $1000+ on a new machine to mulch up a few piles of branches each year, so we started to look at local classified ads to see if there were any used ones for sale.

There wasn’t, but I did notice that there were electric chippers for as little as $200 when I Googled it, so I started to look into that option.

We really liked the design of the Earthwise GS70015, but it was more than double the price of similar units without the catch bin.

Then we found the same one with a different paint job at Canadian Tire for $199 and started to do a little research and comparisons. Overall, it seemed like a much better option, because we could easily trim our branches small enough to fit through the 1 1/4″ opening with the Cyndi Loppersand we loved the no cleanup aspect with the built in bin.

I had read a bunch of complaints about the product and the screws rusting into the blades and making it nearly impossible to get them out without stripping them, so I took the advice of one reviewer and put anti-seize on all of the screws before use.

Then we went out and fired that sucker up. It made great sized chips for mulch, and once the branches were cut down to size, it gobbled them up quite fast. It didn’t take too many crabapple branches to make this little box of gold.

I kind of want to roll around in them.

I’m going to do up enough to get 8″ of this stuff in the chicken’s run and let them work it around and build up some good compost. I wanted to try it in the coop for bedding, but I’m told that it isn’t a good idea for a few different reasons. All of the reasons include the girls’ health, so I don’t want to chance it. I was just hoping to save a bit of dough, because the bales of shavings are $10 a piece at the local feed store (which doesn’t seem bad after looking at Amazon), and that all adds up.

We also plan on making some good mulch for around the trees and in the gardens, so I will play around with the green/carbon ratios when I’m doing the chipping. I’m sure that I can find the right amount somewhere on YouTube.

Another thing we want to try is hugelkultur, so this is another way we will be able to use the chips and the bigger wood together.  I am going to  look further into it, but I do want to get at least one bed going this year.

I also got thinking that we might get a smoker and see if we can dry the fruit wood chips enough to use them for that. We have a bunch of crabapple, plum and apricot branches to do, so it would be free fuel. I mean why bury them when you can smoke meat to go along with your fresh veggies? 😉

Anyhow, if you are in the market for a little chipper, and you don’t mind a little extra work, you can save yourself quite a bit of money and hassle by shopping around for a small electric one. I can’t vouch for any of them right now, but this one seems like a good deal, and works really good so far. I will definitely update this if things go awry though.

Chris

P.S. If you get the Canadian Tire one, look at my review there. It will tell you about getting new blades from the company. What it won’t tell you is that they will send you free ones if you call before you have had it for two years and they wear out. That is all done over the phone, so you don’t have to take them into CT.

That’s if they weren’t lying to me, and if things don’t change in the next two years.

What A Year

Yeah, it’s been a year since we packed up the Cool Bus and moved to Hudson’s Hope, BC.

A year ago, our yard looked like this.

Minus the swing set
Minus the swing set

Note the lack of garden, chickens, and big composter. We were really starting off our homestead with bare bones. There were two black compost units there when we bought the place, but one was missing a lid and both were dried out ant condos. We started composting everything, and with some heat, weeds, and a garden hose, we got them to producing some nice, dark compost by the fall.

This is what the backyard looks like today.

yard2016

Yeah, there’s some brown patches from where I left the trailer for too long, but I’m hoping that the chickens will help to  get things green again.

Speaking of the chickens, here they are.

Upgrades for the tractor are coming.
Yeah, I ended up getting two more. They seemed lonely as a pair.

I’m going to add a couple of nesting boxes on one side and keep the main box as a roosting/dining area. I added wheels from an old lawn mower at The Share Shed and a handle, because I think dragging it was going to start wrecking things.

We also built some raised bed garden boxes, and there’s stuff in them now.

It's not well planned, but we threw in whatever was free or cheap that we came across.
It’s not well planned, but we threw in whatever was free or cheap that we came across.

We have been hitting Walker Greenhouses for their half price vegetables, and we also got some plants from The Rustic and the Social Responsibility club at the school. Everything is growing well, except for the jalapenos, but I think I planted them in too much shade.

This is part of the front garden. We dug up and sifted out a whole bunch of lilies from it, and next year the rest are going.

Most of these were free from Jane, our egg lady.
A lot of these were free from Jane, our egg lady.

We moved one of the composters from the back to the front, because it’s nice and sunny in the afternoons there. In the spot we moved it from, we put in our soap drying rack that we don’t need anymore and wrapped some chicken wire around the open spots.

Waste not, want not.
Waste not, want not.

I was getting tired of throwing the spruce needles and dog poop over the fence, and saw that the David Suzuki Foundation says we should compost it, so this will be used for yard rakings; dog, chicken, and hamster poop; and any dead animals or birds that we come across. We just can’t use the compost for any edibles, but that’s okay, we can spread it around the yard to replenish the soil and work it’s way back into nature.

We have also started a soap making company; started breeding Red Wigglers, European Night Crawlers, and mealworms; and adopted a second dog named Dover.

Before and after losing a much needed twenty pounds.
Before and after losing a much needed twenty pounds. A lot of that was grey matter.

When we got Dover, we knew he was a sweet dog, but we didn’t know that it was his only redeeming quality. He is quite possibly the least intelligent dog that I have ever met, and we have to rub antiseptic on his gums once a week to prevent his teeth from falling out. I think he was pretty badly neglected, health-wise, and I’d say from his head shyness, he’s been booted around a bit.

I mean, when it takes a month to learn how to sit, there may have been a few hits to the brain. Nevertheless, we still love the poor wretch, and we will keep putting up with his incontinence until it ruins the floors.

Also, we both found gainful employment and there have been some academic accolades for the kids, so all in all, I think we have had a pretty productive year of semi granola-ism.

Next year we will maybe start scoping out some property.

Chris

Good Relations

I remember when we got here, we bought eggs from the grocery store. I knew that there were folks around that had eggs for sale, but wasn’t sure who they were.

One day, a PSA came out from a lady who had some wool to give away, and farm fresh eggs for sale. Gerri went out to see what the wool looked like and bought three dozen eggs while she was there. When we were getting low again, we both went out, and I got to meet Jane as well. She was pretty cool, and we all chatted about how great their little farm was, and we bought some more eggs. (She was the one who told us about rendering down fat for soap making.)

This went on into the winter, and this spring, I was out there getting some eggs, when she asked if I wanted some potatoes. There was a bunch of shriveled up purple and red potatoes in a pail on the floor, so I said that we didn’t really eat potatoes, but thanked her anyway. I assumed that she meant for eating, and I didn’t think the leathery little guys would be that tasty. I mentioned that I was going to be looking for seed potatoes as I wanted to try my hand at gardening, when she explained that they were for planting.

I felt a bit foolish, but got over it quickly and went home to plant the little spuds. They are now about two inches high.

This isn't one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.
This isn’t one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.

Since then, we have brought extra veggie scraps for her chickens, and gave her an in on our fat supply. We can’t use everything, but we don’t like seeing things go to waste, so we thought she would appreciate a little  bit of free stuff.

We were right.

Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.
Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.

She asked us if we wanted anything from her garden that was spreading around, so we said we would take anything she wanted to get rid of.

This was in there as well.

A few different types of strawberries. We'll let them get spreading this year.
A few different types of strawberries. We’ll let them get spreading this year.

This next one was a great addition to our perennial herb garden.

The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.
The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.

We got more rhubarb, so I planted it around to see where it did the best.

I guess we will see how it turns out. I'll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.
I guess we will see how it turns out. I’ll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.

I guess the point of this post is that sharing freely of resources for no other purpose than to help someone out, can really pay you back great dividends in the long run.

Not only did we feel great by helping out someone that we have come to know as a friend, but we got some free plants, and the lend of a great book. We’re going to start making things now. Really cool things.

Plus, we got great, fresh eggs, a tour of the farm, and got to watch Duffy and Lily fight over the tennis ball a bit. (It gets put away when we visit now.)

So if you get a chance to go to someone’s place and buy something that they have produced themselves, talk to them. Ask questions, and tell them about your dreams and plans. You just never know where you might find a new friend, or at the very least, a trading partner.

Chris

Almost Free Raised Bed Garden

So last fall I was working in the bush and went by this huge burn pile about ten times a day. Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention to a fifteen foot tall pile of trees on a pipeline right of way, but this pile had a lot of short 2″x8″ planks all over the base of it.

I was thinking that it was a huge waste, so when the job was done, Gerri and I went out there and packed up the minivan with over seventy of these little beauties.

That's what they call rustic. People pay big money for rustic.
That’s what they call rustic. People pay big money for rustic.

We weren’t sure what they could be used for, but we figured that we could find something better than global warming, so we stacked them on a pallet and covered them in a mattress bag that we had saved for just such an occasion.

Then, the other day I was repurposing part of our flower garden. It was completely choked out with lily of the valley, and I wanted to put something a little more useful in it, so I cut out a corner that gets pretty decent sun, sifted out the roots and shoots, and mixed in vermiculite and some of the worm castings that I’ve harvested over the winter.

I love picking handfuls out of the bin and sitting on the kitchen floor with a couple of tubs beside me. Sorting the worms and organics from the rich compost soothes my weary nerves and also helps to fight ISIS. Don’t ask me how, but nobody has been killed by ISIS while I was sorting worms. Probably.

This is the screen I made for sifting dirt out of two refrigerator shelves crossed and zip-tied together. They were free from the Share Shed. It’s also the repurposed flower garden.

Hey, it's not fancy, but free is free.
Hey, it’s not fancy, but free is free.

I then dug up some of the wild chives that were growing at the side of the house and transplanted them to the new herb garden at the front.

There were a lot more than I needed, so I turned the chunk of old manhole by the street into a new home for the rest.

I don’t know how I got so far off track, but let’s get back to the story.

I was wondering what else I was going to use my castings for, when I thought of building some raised bed gardens out of logs. That would be a problem, seeing as we don’t have a truck to haul the logs in, or any machinery to get them to the back yard. We also don’t have the money to hire it out, so my gaze fell on the pile.

20160421_092201
Mattress bags are a very handy thing to have around.

I cut one in half, and then ripped them in half to make corner supports, and then I just made walls two boards high.

Yeah, I know it's basic. That's why I was confident I could do it.
Yeah, I know it’s basic. That’s why I was confident I could do it.

Now one of the huge problems with gardening in this area is the deer. They are everywhere. If you don’t put up an eight foot high fence, or cover your garden with deer netting,  then you are just courting disaster.

Another Share Shed treasure we got was an 8 person dome tent that had some pretty large holes in the roof. We kept the base, because it was a good tarp with eye holes already sewn in, and we kept all of the poles. I drilled a 1/2″ hole in the top of each support, and Voila!

We don't know if it will work yet, but in theory it looks good.
We don’t know if it will work yet, but in theory it looks good.

I’ll cover that in the Ross Deer Netting that I bought, and then maybe some poly so I can start planting a bit earlier. I am going to build two more of these, so I should be able to fit quite a bit of the food we are hoping to grow in them. It’ll be about 30 sq ft of garden space, and I think that’s good for our first time.

So all in all, we spent:

  • $15 for gas to get the wood and Share Shed goodies
  • $4 for the screws
  • $30 for 100′ deer netting(I could’ve got used chicken wire for $2)

Under $50 to build and deer-proof your garden seems pretty good to me, if it works. I shouldn’t count the gas, because we just love driving around together, and it was our day off, but I figured it would still be a bargain and I’ll still have 50′ of deer netting for next year.

Let me know what you think. Should I change anything?

Chris