Whiskey barrel collection
My husband, Chaz, says that he believes “gardens should be an evolution.” Being Scottish born, “garden” to him is the back yard, front yard, and side yards with any landscaping. Your Basic Garden that surrounds you. What Americans call a “garden” is a vegetable garden in Scotland. So from the Scottish definition of a “garden”, he is referring to our surrounding landscaping. In the example of us though, it is all combined. I have a tendency to plant herbs next to flowers, vegetables with bulbs, and fruit trees and bushes with annuals and perinnels. No where is there a gardening handbook or a gardening police that says you can’t plant a lovely lettuce next to a lily!!
Before shot of new area when we first saw the property in Jan 2013
We have about 20 Acres on the Michigan Alba Ranch and it is all deep woods except for a small area around the house and barns and the pond area. Because you can’t have a tree growing up in the middle of the pond or it isn’t a pond. Once we bought this property, the first thing that started as soon as Chaz went off shore was for some of the trees to start falling….on the buildings!!! The first one fell on the lean to roof where Chaz vintage 1970 VW bus was parked. Over this last year, we have taken down about 180+ trees. This is barely a dent in what needs accomplishing. We could have it logged but than it would be about 60% gone with no fire wood left for us. We will probably continue working on it ourselves instead. Just this last 10 days we have had 2 maple trees fall. Both were broke off about 10-15 feet in the air, no other trees down around them, and in a middle of a grove area. We do wonder if those were lightning strikes with the recent storms???
The trees that we have cleared maybe opened up about 1 acre of land. It was a very uneven topography, steep hills, drop offs, low bits, flooded areas and stumps everywhere. Working with a chain saw, wheel barrow and by hand only gets you so far. I decided to get a quote to bring in the big guys…..just for research as I didn’t think that we could afford it. Well to say that excavation costs and operations in Michigan are different than in Colorado is an understatement. We ended up moving the rest of the firewood out of the low old orchard area burning the huge piles of brush.
It took over 3 days to burn all the brush. After being in Colorado for 7 years, I still haven’t gotten over fear of wild fire and even lit my fire pit for a camp fire yet. So burning the brush was major….efficient…but scarey for me. Chaz did an excellent burning the brush and keeping everything under control, complete with having a water hose on and down at the site for fire suppression safety. All those years working offshore and those fire and safety courses paid off!!
We had the Beckman Brothers come and with a bulldozer, loader, trucks, and excavator they made quick work of the job. It was like big Tonka trucks playing in the sandbox. I was fascinated and set up a chair to sit outside and watch them. I didn’t go so far as to pop any corn, but almost. Amazing. I was used to watching excavators dig for WEEKS and may very little progress compared to this few days and my 1 acre doesn’t look anything like it did before.
Excavator at work
Once the excavator left, we got down to work. We raked most of the acre by hand and seeded it. Certain sections will be pasture in and around the orchard trees for the goats. That was seeded with alfalfa, wheat grass and sun flower seed. Chaz keeps saying all he can envision is this field of grass and alfalfa over 2 feet high and can’t see any of the goats….only occasionally see the grass wiggle because they are so short and the kids are even more tiny. The other areas were seeded with regular grass seed. Chaz had to put a fence around the entire area as the deer were trying to move in the night the excavators left!!
We have planted about 9 varieties of apple, 2 crab apples, 4 mulberries (white and red), 5 cherries (sweet and tart), 4 peaches (white and yellow), 8 plums (6 European varieties that most folks here have never heard of but are familiar to Chaz), 3 apricots, and 2 pears. A partridge in there probably as well. Also I have planted 9 sea berries, 10 fruiting Blue Honeysuckles, 6 Service Berries, numerous other blueberries, 10 red and white currants, a contorted mulberry, and am about to plant the last 2 trees which are a weeping mulberry.
I hope to be making loads of jams, jellys, preserves, chutneys, pies and such later on. We did have the excavator raise, fill in and level an area off the house that was eroding and steep enough that with the constant walking that I do on it, my back and knees were having some severe issues. In that area, the bull dozer took one nice chunk dug right out of the side and Chaz is out there building the platform to set up our Snorkel Hot Tub. We have been waiting to get this hot tub for over 5 years. It is a red cedar tub that has a submerged underwater wood stove to heat the water. No electrical maintenance or running. Since we don’t have a bath tub and our house is too small to add a tub, it really is a necessity that the Doctor has told me repeatedly to soak in Magnesium flakes. Now I will be able to and will change the water frequently enough that we don’t have to use chlorine at all since I am allergic to it. I can’t wait. We deserve this bit of fun.
Chaz just said to me last night, “I believe a garden should be an evolution.” I responded that this was as about 5 weeks ago I hadn’t even thought of doing what we were doing and he responded, “No honey, this isn’t an evolution….THIS is a REVOLUTION!!”