And there she was, gone!

It’s been a while since my last post, but we’ve done so much.

And there she was....gone

And there she was….gone

I sit here trying to collect my thoughts and put something to paper, but frankly, I’m exhausted.  My body aches and my brain is foggy, so I think this post will rely heavily on pictures and quick captions to let you know what we’ve been up to the past two weeks.

We’ve really taken advantage of the beautiful weather and the longer days.  Now that it doesn’t get dark until almost 9:00, we’ve been putting in some long hours to get the last push done before the foundation starts.

Under the watchful supervision of Jill and James

Under the watchful supervision of Jill and James

My last post showed the removal of the chimney above the roof.  Since then, we’ve removed the remainder of it from inside the house.

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With a little help from the air compressor and an air-hammer, I made quick work of busting it down, brick by brick.  Vanessa sorted and stacked the bricks we were keeping for reuse elsewhere.

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Then we turned our attention to outside – the addition. We started with the roof and worked our way down.  Nothing overly complicated, just a lot of effort and grunt-work.

"GRUNT"

“GRUNT”

Strip off the roof, remove the roof boards, wall sheathing and framing.  The demo took longer than we originally anticipated because we did decide to salvage as much of the material as possible.

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Rather than “grip-and-rip”, we dismantled everything, cleaned, sorted, denailed and stacked the material for our new garden shed/chicken coop that we’ll be building later this spring.

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Minus the rot

Minus the rot

We’ve also been cleaning up the yard in anticipation of our vegetable beds and gardens.  We picked up several wood pallets from the building supply store for free (the best kind) and built a couple of garden composters.

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We’ll still have a few more to build around the garden, but it’s a start.  Our neighbor was kind enough to give us some poop, too.  Well, his cow’s poop to be exact.

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We’ve got our blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes, as well as two cherry trees, a pear tree, three cherry bushes.

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Our Honey Crisp apple trees should be arriving soon as well.  Our little grow-op has been a tremendous success this spring – the best ever, actually.  The only problem we’ll have is deciding how many of these little guys make it into the garden.

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As you can tell, I haven’t the energy to put into this tonight – my apologies – but I also didn’t want any longer to pass before updating you on our progress.  So before I face-plant into the keyboard, I wish you al. bjhbsk rch p ccczzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Jokes.

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Distractions…..and extractions

Another week and another unexpected and unwelcomed delay.

Not that it really made much of a difference with the yesterday’s rain and all, but an stray sliver of bone in last night’s dinner resulted in an emergency trip to the dentist and an extracted tooth today.  So as per doctor’s orders, no heavy lifting, bending or straining that might cause the socket to bleed.  That puts our demo on hold again for a day or so.

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The weather has been in our favor this week otherwise and we did start demolition of the back porch.  We also got most of our storage out of the rear addition – readying it for demolition too.  I’ll have more of that to write about shortly.

So while sidelined, we distracted ourselves by starting some more of our vegetable seeds.

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We’ve been germinating our seeds in trays set up on shelving in our kitchen.  A space heater on low below the shelving provides the perfect temperature to get the seeds started and the newspaper pots reduces the stress of transplanting later – the pot and all will be planted.

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Most seeds don’t require light to germinate, but once they’ve broken through the soil, the energy stored in the seeds is used up and the small plants start reaching for light – this is when we move them to our “grow-op”.

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Upstairs and out of the way, we have another set of shelves equipped with fluorescent lights on a timer to provide 15-16 hours of light to the newly germinated seedlings per day.

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The seedlings need sufficient light to keep them from becoming too leggy and spindly.  We have the lights suspended from short chains and are able to raise the lights as the plants grow upwards.

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Ideally, you’d want to keep the lights to within one or two inches from the seedlings.  The lights are timed to turn off around 9:00 in the evening – and it’s quite a sight to see the upper level of the house lit-up like a greenhouse at dusk.

In addition to the asparagus and peppers started a couple of weeks ago, we’ve now started two flats of onions and the remainder of our tomato seeds – five varieties, totalling about 80 plants.

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As spring approaches we will also be starting some of our other plants – squash, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.  And with the majority of the snow gone from our garden area, we’ll soon start preparing the beds for planting by the end of May or beginning of June.  That will be around the time our foundation is underway, so we’ll have time to tend the garden.

The spring thaw couldn’t have happened soon enough.  Next week, fishing season opens and I’ve already told Vanessa, regardless of the weather, I’ll be wetting a line when it does.

Until then, demo will resume as planned tomorrow.  And a little free advice:  be careful of little bone fragments when eating ribs.  You’re welcome.

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Well there’s something you don’t see everyday. Thank God.

Well, I guess I had that coming.

Shame on me for jumping the gun last week and started singing the praises of the spring-like weather.  That’ll teach me.  Call it karma, Murphy’s Law or just dumb luck, we got walloped with the biggest storm the Maritimes has seen in 10 years.

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More of a hurricane disguised as a blizzard, I think.  A blizzicane.  Or snownado.

I thought it would be fun to document the day with a series of photos showing the progression of the storm.

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After three sets of pics, I changed my mind and thought I’d leave it to your imagination.  There was no way I was going out in that mess unless I absolutely had to.   And I only had to twice: once to collect our airborne garbage bins (thought to be securely fastened to our front porch) and once to let Murdoch do his “business”.

Such a sad picture

Such a sad picture

It was after that trip that Murdoch said he wouldn’t go out there again unless he absolutely had to.  He didn’t.

"Outside?  Nope, I can hold it."

“Outside? Nope, I can hold it.”

Kidding aside, it was pretty intense.  Par for the course for local islanders, I’m told.  But with a half-gutted, one-hundred-and-thirty-year-old house, we felt every wind gust.  And we didn’t get away unscathed.

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We lost quite a lot of shingles on the north side.  The shingles were quite sparse on that slope to start, but now there are even less.  Oh well, it will make stripping them off in the spring much easier now that they’ve all been deposited in our yard.

Probably the highlight of the day was seeing our neighbor and his snow blower backing into our driveway.

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God bless you, Orville.  I don’t think I’d have the strength to do the driveway today – after shovelling the snow out of our second floor.

Wait.  What?

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Have to admit – I didn’t see this coming.

 

Yep.  With all the wall and ceiling finishes removed from the second floor – and with the 100 km/h wind and snow – and with more shingles blown off, well….

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Come on – you got to laugh.  Or cry.  I laughed and thankfully, so did Vanessa.  After the storm, this was a cake-walk.  And with our neighbors help, we hardly had any snow to shovel anyhow.  It was a breeze (a gale-force breeze, mind you, but a breeze nonetheless).

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But enough of that.  You’ve seen the footage, I’m sure, and we survived.  That’s the main thing, right?

As far as the house goes, until yesterday, our weather has been beautiful – sunny and clear – but really cold and windy, so needless to say, we didn’t do any of the demo I last spoke about: removal of the porch and rear addition.  They say the next couple of weeks will be milder, but wet.  Whatever the forecast holds, we’ll need to buckle down and get this done in anticipation of the foundation to start in May (or sooner, hopefully).

We haven’t been idle though.  We started a number of vegetable plants inside in preparation for the planting season.

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Leeks, asparagus, peppers (sweet and hot), and some tomato seeds have been sown – and are starting to germinate.  We’ll move them to our grow-lights shortly and start the next round of plants after that.

For now, I’ll bite my tongue about spring.  We know it’s coming.  When it’s ready.

It’s official – spring is here! Time to start the garden plans

Well, Vanessa and I have been enjoying a few days off from working on the house.  After a bit of a snow/ice storm last week, the past few days have been beautiful.  It’s been sunny and clear – albeit a little cold – so we’ve been enjoying some time outside.

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We’re just back from a long two-hour walk with Murdoch on the Confederation Trail

Murdoch discovers the sunroof

Murdoch discovers the sunroof

and with a quick coffee-to-go, a drive up to Cavendish and along the shoreline.

....to see the sights

….to see the sights

....and a little wildlife.

….and a little wildlife.

And with the official first day of spring on us, we’ve been thinking planning dreaming of the planting season and the gardens.

We went to town over the weekend and got all of our vegetable seeds from Veseys for the spring.  One of my earlier posts (https://ouroldislandhome.com/2014/01/18/spring-dreaming/) outlined all of the vegetables we would be trying – and that hasn’t changed much.   I know it all sounds very ambitious – and it probably is – but we have nothing to lose.  It’s not like we’re pressed for space and don’t have the time to tend the garden.  We’ve settled on the back south-east corner for the garden – it’s a clear and wide-open area that receives sun all day.  The space around the house is being reserved for flower beds, patios, BBQ and entertainment area – and around the barn is the driveway, shop and (eventually) greenhouse area.

So with the location of the veggie beds determined, we now need the snow to go (who doesn’t, amiright?) and we’ll prep the area.  We have two huge rolls of black poly (plastic) to roll out over the bed areas.  We’re planning on eight beds – each measuring 10′ x 25′.  The black poly serves two purposes: first, it will inhibit any grass and weeds from starting to grow as the weather warms, and secondly, it warms the soil in anticipation of planting.  A number of our plants need warmer conditions: sweet potato, corn, tomatoes and peppers don’t like their feet cold.  Other crops are less fussy and can be planted as soon as the soil is workable.

We’ve planned an eight crop rotation.  Different vegetables can be grouped together in similar families.  Utilizing crop rotation, you change the location of each vegetable group from year to year.  This reduces the likelihood of a pest or disease problem overwintering and attacking the same crop in the same location of the following year.  For example tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes all belong to the same family and, as such, are susceptible to the same pests and diseases.  Because these plants all belong to the solanaceous or nightshade family, you wouldn’t plant tomatoes in the same plot that potatoes were planted in the previous year.  The goal is to have at least three to four years before the same crop-family is planted in the same location again.

So, here’s our rotation plan – the eight beds will be:

  1. Legumes: beans and peas
  2. Brassacas: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip
  3. Nightshades: tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, tomatillos
  4. Umbeliferae: carrot, parsnip, parsley, celery
  5. Lettuce and sweet potato
  6. Cucurbits: cucumbers, squash, pumpkin
  7. Goosefoot: beet, chard, spinach and Alliums: onion, garlic, leeks, chive
  8. Corn

And in addition to these eight beds, we’ll have permanent locations for the perennial plants: asparagus, rhubarb and berries.

Yup – that’s a lot of produce.  But think about this: one seed packet of broccoli costs $3.00.  A packet of 1000 carrot seeds cost about $4.00 and for $8.00 we bought 1000 corn seeds.  The list goes on and on.  For what we would spend on groceries in one week, we bought the potential for the same grown by ourselves – one hundred times over!

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We realize that’s far more than we’ll ever need – even canning, freezing and preserving as much as we’re able.  So we’ve already decided the surplus would be donated to needy families or a food bank.  Either way, our needs will be met and others will be blessed with the surplus.

Over the next short while, we’ll be starting some of the plants inside in anticipation of the last frost – transplanting around the end of May.  I’ll show you how we’re geminating and growing the plants before transplanting – and how we prepare the beds.

I’d love to hear what you grow in your home gardens – and any helpful tips you might have.  Until then, enjoy your spring!

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Spring dreaming

Fresh air, warm sun, digging in the soil, planting seeds……sorry, I was dreaming there.  It’s the same every year, though – by mid-January, we’re pouring through seed catalogues and making our wish-list for the vegetable gardens.  It probably makes it all the worse because of the early and (so far) harsh winter.

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The big difference for us is the space we have to grow our plants – and it’s a BIG difference.  Back in Ontario, we had the largest lot in our subdivision – a nice pie-shaped lot – but still a subdivision lot.  We used our 30’x150′ lot to it’s maximum potential, growing lots of vegetables (tomatoes, onions, spinach, peppers, carrots, beets, parsnips, peas), fruit trees (cherry, plum and peach) and berries (raspberries, blackberries and blueberries).

Now we have an acre of space to grow….things.  When I look out my window, I think “yeah, that’s a lot of space” but when I actually walk to the other end of the property and look back, it really puts the size of it into perspective.

Murdoch loves it!

Murdoch loves it!

So here we are reading the Vesey’s Seed Catalogue and making our list, checking it twice.  We’ve got a lot of work ahead as spring approaches – clearing and tilling the soil and preparing the beds for planting – but not until things dry out some more.  I’m just hoping that as early as winter arrived, spring will follow suit.

Here’s a look at what we’d like to plant:

  • Asparagus – takes a few years to mature enough to harvest, but a perennial that is very hardy and will continue to produce for years
  • Soy Beans – steamed in the shell with a sprinkle of salt (mmmm, Edamame)
  • Yellow & Green Bush Beans – freezes very well or pickle some “Dilly Beans”
  • Beets – a typical red variety for caning and a yellow version for roasting or grilling that doesn’t stain everything pink
  • Broccoli – never had much success in Ontario, but the cooler PEI temps may help
  • Cabbage – a summer variety for fresh use and a winter variety for storing and sauerkraut
  • Carrot – chose three types, all sweet and stores well
  • Celery – again, another vegetable new to us, but we’ll give it a try
  • Collard – we enjoyed trying and eating different greens last year, wanted to try this one
  • Corn – two varieties that mature two weeks apart so we have time to blanch and freeze portions
  • Cucumber – a “burpless” variety for salads and a standard pickling variety
  • Garlic – easy to grow and stores well, will never go to waste
  • Kale – have you ever had Kale Chips?
  • Leeks – freeze for use through the winter in soups and stews
  • Lettuce – a couple of varieties of Leaf and Romaine, planted in the spring for early use and another planting in the fall
  • Onion – two kinds, a storing onion and a red onion
  • Parsnip – added to soup and stew or (my favorite) roasted or grilled like fries
  • Snow Peas – for stir-frys or salads
  • Peppers – a couple sweet varieties and some hot (jalapenos and Hungarian wax for pickling and chilies for roasting Ancho)
  • Sweet Potato – not seeds but grown from vines – needs warm soil but does grow very well in Vesey’s test gardens
  • Pumpkin – small cooking variety for pies and loafs
  • Radishes – for salads and pickling
  • Rutabega – soups, stews and side dishes – can also be fermented like sauerkraut
  • Spinach – “I’m strong to the finish, ’cause I eats me…..”
  • Zucchini – love grilled zucchini with olive oil and sea salt
  • Winter Squash – a buttercup and butternut variety
  • Swiss Chard – greens
  • Tomato – two heirloom varieties, one plum-type for canning and a cherry tomato
  • Tomatillo – we grew it last year in Ontario but never got to use the fruit – we’ll be making Salsa Verde this year
I think that's good

I think that’s good

And that’s it for veggies.  I’ve also got my eye on a few apple trees.  We’ll likely plant a couple Macintosh trees for cooking and Honeycrisp for eating fresh, and of course we’ll also be growing my favorites: raspberries and blueberries.

When I get some time, I’ll sketch out what we want to do with the gardens.  Until then, happy daydreaming.