September 27, 2023

Moving from garden to firewood

My gardening season is over. There is one lone basil plant in the garden and I'm toying with the idea of putting it in the greenhouse to see how long it will go. The begonias will stay in their planters until a hard frost gets them. I'm content to let them go because the mother plants will tucked away all nice and cozy in the den this winter with a grow light. 

The Greenstalk has been moved to its new location by the patio. The daylilies have been repotted and the big pots are ready for next year. The year #1 buckets have new soil and are in the greenhouse waiting for spring. 

My best tip for anyone planning a container garden - woven ground cover from Grower's Solutions. It held up to foot traffic, stopped the grass and weeds, and is easy to keep tidy. I used the leaf blower to keep it free of debris. 

I feel really good about the 2023 season. I not only enjoyed having the garden and watching it grow and produce, but I gained more knowledge. My garden will never feed us for an entire year, but it puts a few fresh things on the table with some left over to preserve.  

Now it is time to move from gardening season to firewood season. I have a good supply of firewood for this year, and what we split now will be for the 2024-25 winter, and possibly beyond. I have a large maple that I've contracted with a service to take down, and an equally large cherry that I could drop but my cousin says he will do the honors. 

Before we get really into it, there is a small pile of cherry and oak to split and stacked that can be burned toward the end of this year if needed. Using the bucket on the John Deere, I'll bring some poplar up to the house and clear a spot to begin stacking for next year. We worked a lot harder before we got the tractor. 

Life in the country moves with the seasons. There's comfort in being in tune with nature. I may not have the biggest house or drive a brand-new car (by choice, mind you), but I am content to be where I am with what I have. And not only am I content, I am generally happy with my life and my country lifestyle. 

Yes, there is work to do. Daylight, I'm waiting on you!

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, firewood, gardening, rural living, being content, John Deere, country lifestyle, a writer's life, nature, cherry trees, grow bags, tomatoes, peppers, tree service

September 25, 2023

Do it to enjoy now and to build for next season

Very little happens here on the Manor that doesn't take the next season into consideration. Sometimes - most of the time - a current project is all about the future returns. Revamping the area at the gable end of the house was a project like that. I know how I'd like it to look next year, with pots of daylilies and annuals and herbs among the stepping stones, and the Greenstalk at the end full of growing things. 

The last week of August, I scraped back the pea gravel and pulled up the old, rotting landscape cloth, and put down a woven ground cover from Grower's Solutions. It was a lot of hot, sweaty work, but I was very pleased with the results. 

More dirty work was ahead. I repotted all the daylilies. Thank heavens for the John Deere 1023! Carry heavy pots? Not me. I slid them into the bucket and let the tractor do the heavy carrying. And I didn't just repot the plants, I amended the soil to ensure it will be many years before I need to disturb the roots again.

Now that the bigger pots are in place, I can fill in around them with smaller pots that will hold colorful annuals and herbs. Except for the blueberry bush in the center and the Greenstalk by the walk to the patio (just out of the frame), none of the placements were planned. I grabbed a pot from the tractor bucket and plunked it down in an empty hole. It could not have worked out better! I wanted it to be an eclectic mix and it will be. 

I need to spend some time investigating what herbs have the best chance to grow in this location. It gets a lot of sun and the house keeps that area hot. As for annuals, I'll stick with marigolds, zinnias, and begonias. Those are about as maintenance-free as it gets. It's another project that I can strike off my To Do List for this year. Next year, I hope to be able to stand back and enjoy the flowers and herbs. 

Hard work, yes, but well worth it. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, To Do Lists, gardens, daylily, seasonal work, John Deere 1023 tractor, herbs, annuals, rural living, simple country pleasures, a writer's life, looking ahead, Greenstalk, Grower's Solutions

September 23, 2023

Throw those plans out

My plan for today didn't include rain, so of course it's raining. It's not that I don't have myriad things I can do, because I do. They just weren't what I wanted to do.  

Gardening season is effectively over. I sliced the last of the green Bell peppers and put them in the freezer yesterday. The butternut squash is harvested and resting on the counter on the patio. The only things left to do is to freeze-dry the basil and collect a few seeds for next year. 

With the garden over, it is now firewood season, and I wanted to start on that today. I have a rank of poplar that needs to be brought over to the house to begin with this year. Poplar burns fast and is sort of a pain in the ass when it's really cold, but it's great for smaller burns to warm up the house to take the chill off. I'll burn maple, oak, and cherry when it's really cold outside. 

There are a few of the large maple rounds from last year that still need to be split, and a pile of oak and cherry from last year to finish and stack. The log splitter is not sitting where I want it, but it's out of the way of the tree trimmer for when he shows up to take down the leaning maple. It's all about prioritizing the work so it can be done in an order that doesn't make more work for yourself. 

But it will have to wait for another day. I tell myself that on a rainy day, I need to relax. Maybe I should bake cookies or work on a book. Sumner's Garden is the current work-in-progress. I know how it ends so I should get there and finish everything up so I can publish it. No, I don't lack for things to fill my day even if I didn't plan to do them today. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rainy day, firewood, rural living, country lifestyle, time management, homestead living, end of season, gardening, a writer's life

September 20, 2023

Sitting by the fire on a rainy day

Living in the country as I do, I constantly find joy in the simple chores around our little homestead. And a lot of those chores are cyclic. By that, I mean they need to be done at about the same time every year. Burning brush isn't cyclic. No matter if it NEEDS to be, it can't be done until certain criteria are met. 

Having acres of woodland we end up with a lot of brush. Branches and limbs fall to the ground on a regular basis. There is pruning to be done along the lane and along the edges of the yard. Getting whacked in the face while mowing isn't much fun! It can hurt! 

Rose bushes get trimmed, the garden gets weeded, shrubs and bushes die and need cut back in the hope of new growth, and yes, sometimes we help out our city-bound family members and bring branches from their yards to burn. 

I won't light a fire unless it is raining or rained in the night enough to make the ground wet, or unless there is a cover of snow on the ground. This is the way I stay out of trouble. This is how my grandfather taught me to burn, and it makes good sense. 

This past Sunday, we got a wonderful soaking rain. We don't typically do a lot of chores on a Sunday, but I didn't think sitting in my pickup watching the fire would be much work, and it was not. It was actually rather pleasant. 

I took my Kindle and a travel cup full of coffee with me. I stuck a stick in the USB port and cued up my playlist. I left poor Deuce inside with the Lord of the Manor and I had some quality alone-time. 

After a bit, Himself sent a text asking if the fire was burning. I took a picture and sent it to him. It wasn't until I took the picture off my phone that I noticed the Universe had had a little fun with me. Take a look at the photo. The song that played when I took the picture was Fool in the Rain by Led Zeppelin. 

Funny, Universe. Funny.

The Lady of the Hideaway

The Hideaway, Holly Tree Manor, homesteads, simple country pleasures, rural living, burning brush, soaking rain, Chevy trucks, common sense, country traditions, coffee

September 18, 2023

The Mad Canner: broth and beans

A few days ago as I readied ingredients to prepare dinner, I was surprised to find only two pints of chicken broth in the pantry. Yes, it's wonderful that I actually use the foods I've canned, but not keeping a closer eye on a cooking staple like chicken broth is... not a good thing. 

In an attempt to be frugal, I purchased a roasting chicken and we had a proper Sunday dinner for a change. I put the roasted meat in the fridge for another meal, and the carcass in the crock pot to simmer on low overnight. The result was fifteen pints of chicken broth. Winter means soups and now I'm ready.

After setting the pints on the pantry shelf, I took a quick inventory and decided I needed to get busy. The only thing I had on my agenda to can was apple pie filling when the Stayman apples are available, but I also was out of molasses beans. Molasses beans have become a summer staple when we grill burgers. They're sort of a cross between pork 'n beans and baked beans having less sugar than baked and no tomato flavor like pork 'n beans. Eleven pints now reside in the pantry. 

I've been thinking that I need to up my canning game this winter. I have purchased a new-to-me book of recipes and I'm going to try a few. Home canning looks like a lot of work until you open a jar and have dinner ready in five minutes - and you do it repeatedly. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, home food preservation, rural living, country lifestyle, canning, cooking, time savings, a writer's life, chicken broth, molasses beans,

September 17, 2023

Monterey Pass road trip

The Lord of the Manor is a Civil War buff. It could be a little boy's fascination with toy soldiers or it could be that we live within easy driving distance of both Antietam and Gettysburg. Our area is steeped in Civil War history. The movie Gods and Generals had scenes filmed in a town and on a farm we are familiar with. He has studied the history of the conflict in and around our area which means I've learned a bit along the way. We were both surprised when he stumbled across a video about the Monterey Pass, or Monterey Gap.

The fight at Monterey Pass began on the evening of July 4, 1863, as a Confederate wagon train retreated from Gettysburg. Why had we never heard of this engagement? Heck, we'd never even heard of Monterey and we've both lived here all our lives. A road trip was in order. 

It's often said the joy is in the journey. Well, if Himself had used the GPS on his phone, we'd have gotten there quicker. He said, "turn right." She said, "I think we should go left."  So we went right just to shut the man up. It was the WRONG WAY. 

But I will admit the Victorian houses in what I now know is called Monterey were gorgeous. And I got to see them twice! Once going the wrong way and then again on the way back. 

The visitor's center at the park was closed. It's only open on the weekends according to the sign on the door. The trail to the overlook wasn't something Himself could risk doing. If his powerchair batteries gave out, he'd be stuck in the wilderness. Perhaps, if he wants to go back, we could call ahead and see if a ranger or volunteer can take us up in some sort of vehicle. 

It was a nice drive on a lovely day, but there really are spots where one does not want to run off the road. It was easy to picture troops pushing wagons over the edges to fall into the deep ravines to keep them from falling into Union hands.

We enjoyed getting out even though we both felt guilty about leaving Deuce home alone. He likes to ride but we didn't know if he'd be allowed in the visitor's center, and we didn't know where we might stop on the way home, so the dog couldn't go. We're careful where we take him for his own good. 

We didn't take enough road trips during this summer now ending. Now that cooler weather is here, we hope to remedy that. And next time, the man will program in addresses so the GPS can agree with me on which way to turn. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Battle of Monterey Pass, Civil War, day trips, rural living, country lifestyle, black Labrador Retriever, a writer's life

September 10, 2023

A dark ending to a great day

Yesterday, my cousin and I had a very successful yard sale. Many no longer needed items went to new homes and my cousin and I caught up with each other. It was a lot of work to pack up everything and haul it to my uncle's driveway, but the trip home was a lot lighter, ergo, easier. 

I had a great time with Linda, but I was happy to get home. The temps were in the upper 80sF, and there was barely a breeze. It was hot. I unloaded the pickup and then flopped on the bed for a quick rest. A line of thunderstorms was approaching so I didn't want to try to do anything outside. I didn't have time, so a flop-down was my best option. The wind ahead of the front was scary strong and I re-joined the Lord of the Manor to keep an eye on the blowing trees. At about 4:00 pm, we heard BOOM!! BOOMBOOMBOOM!!!

And the house went completely still. The electric power was out. I made the call to report the outage, and so did everyone else in our little enclave. We watched it rain and speculated how long it would take until the power was restored. Longer than we thought.

One of the cousins, being the curious sort, hopped into his truck and drove out to see if he could figure out where the BOOM! occurred and reported in to everyone else.

Just to the right of our bridge, the wind snapped the top out of a tree which fell across the power lines which snapped off the top of a pole that just happened to house a transformer. No wonder there was a big BOOM! 

The word from the power company was grim. We could expect power to be restored no later than 4 PM the next day. Well, crap. 

But country folk are generally prepared for these things. We went out and readied our old generator. I don't even remember what brand it is or the specs on it. All I know is it started and ran like the champ it is. And we heard the humming of other generators as other neighbors settled in for the siege and a few hours lived mostly in the dark.

Happily, the power was restored to us around 7:30 am, or thereabouts. The generator had done it jobs and kept the refrigerator and freezer running. We had water and Internet (sort of), and if it had rained to the point the sump pump was needed, we'd have power to it. 

It's the stormy time of the year. I think I'll leave the generator at the ready for a few more days, just in case. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, power outages, generators, rural living, country lifestyle, preparedness, a writer's life, family, storm damage, trees

September 8, 2023

Getting ready for a Yard Sale

Several years ago, quite a few in reality, my cousin Linda and I joined forces and had a Yard Sale in my Uncle Dick's driveway. His house is just off a major state road that is well traveled, so a sign with Yard Sale and an arrow brings the people to us. 

We enjoyed the day and spoke of doing it again. Well, there was life and there was COVID. Mainly COVID. We didn't want to draw in people in the middle of a pandemic even if others in our larger community did it. We decided to wait a year or two. More like five or six at this point. Tomorrow the waiting is over and we're spending the day together! 

And that's what it's all about - spending time together. It's not about how much money we may or may not make. It's about a lazy day sitting under an umbrella for shade and chatting. I have no doubt we'll talk about growing up together and those we loved so much who have departed this life. Linda is one of the few people remaining who knew my father. Her memories of him are precious to me. 

When someone asks me, "What was the best day of your life?", the only one that comes to mind is a day I spent with Linda and my mom. We visited a local state park and walked up a stream, hopping from rock to rock for several miles. It was a beautiful summer day. We were so relaxed, so happy, and we laughed and laughed. Only the three of us have that memory, and now it is lost to my mother. Yes, time with Linda is precious.

Getting ready for the Yard Sale was pretty easy. I did a bit every day, deciding what could go and what items were simply ready for the landfill. Not everything can be salvaged or up-cycled. I cleaned the card tables one day, and put price tags on items another. One day was reserved for getting a few things down from the attic and wiping them down. I took my time over the course of the last two weeks and picked at the job until today. Everything is loaded in the Colorado and ready to go in the morning. 

I sure hope it doesn't rain! 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rural living, yard sale, family, country lifestyle, working together, memories, growing up country, up-cycle, a writer's life, Alzheimer's Disease, state parks

September 1, 2023

It was a long time coming, but it's done

One of the items on my To-Do List never seemed to get done - until yesterday. I've long wanted to redo the hardscape at the gable end of the house, beside where I park.  The old underlayment had dissolved over the last thirty or so years, and the space had turned into a weed garden. Try as I did, I couldn't keep up with it. It had to go! 

Yesterday, I moved six big flower pots, lifted out sixteen pavers using the John Deere, and gathered up all the other loose pavers I had scattered about. Then I used the tractor to rake the pea gravel out and away from the area. 

Today, I put down the new underlayment - woven weed ground cover from Grower's Solution - laid out the pavers for stepping stones and shoveled the pea gravel back in.

Yes, I shoveled it by hand. With a shovel. I have a blister, too. I asked the Lord of the Manor for help, and oh, yeah. He fucking helped, all right. 

I asked him to scoop up the pea gravel and then drop it in close to the house. He dug down and got dirt, the very thing I told him needed to be avoided. 

I didn't want any dirt going on top of the woven weed cloth that could harbor seeds and grow new weeds. I thought I was very concise. He just didn't want to help me, just like with the knee wall I built

Well, guess what? I got it done. I worked three hours yesterday until I lost the shade, and about four hours today. The hard work was finished by the time I lost the shade today, but finishing up was done with the John Deere, so working in the sun didn't affect me too badly. 

I'm going to spend the winter haunting the dollar stores for suitable pots, and next year, put the flower and herb-filled pots between the stepping stones. I want the plantings to look unplanned even though some planning has gone into it. 

It feels great to have the project finished and even better to have done it myself. Did I get angry with the spousal unit? Yes. I hate it when he looks at a project based on what he can't do instead of what he can do. You might think that's sad, but after thirty years, I'm out of patience with that mindset. 

Don't avoid a difficult project based on what you think you CAN'T do. You CAN do it, even if you need to break it down into stages and take several days to get it done.  YOU CAN!!

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, John Deere 1023, gardening, home projects, do it yourself, DIY, pavers, empowerment, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, hardscapes, flowers