Final Stone Projects for 2015

Final Stone Projects for 2015

2015 has been a year doing a lot of out door projects.  Some stone, some planting, some gardening, some tree clearing, and a lot of general clean up as there has been a lot of junk on the property prior to us purchasing here.   The stone projects are numerous and seem to be ever growing as my creative mind gets loose and the property starts to take shape.  The Stones tell us where they want to be, so as we clear and tidy things up, it will become clear where they will end up eventually.

 

Stones waiting for placement next year
Field Stone Retaining embankment

We are clearing a small area that already has a merry go round and swing and have dubbed it “the park”.  We do plan on having a fire pit area and setting a lot of standing and recumbent stones for a stone circle and sacred place.

 

I have been working more on my garden area as the three stone raised beds that I planted this year yielded a large crop and even today on December 31, 2015 with snow and ice outside, still has Kale, onions, beets and some Rainbow Swiss Chard in it.  Many of my herbs are still growing, although I have lost my chives, basil, tarragon, and one of my more delicate thyme plants.

 

Dry stack raised stone beds and walk ways

I built three more dry stacked raised stone beds and did some path and walk ways around it in stones and gravel.  We did line those areas with some plastic underneath and used a deep bed of pea gravel because the soil is fertile and the weeds seem to run wild.

This will allow me to plant up a lot more vegetables for my family to grow our own food.  I have been trying to buy organic produce as much as I can, but there isn’t always a large selection in the area as well as the quality isn’t always the best.  I find eating the non organic produce and fruit a risk all the time.  Some is covered more in pesticides than others and I get sick or slightly sick depending on how much is on it.  I can’t wait until our fruit trees and vegetable garden is productive enough that I can grow our own food.  I have a lot to learn in how to do gardening successfully, how to control pests naturally, and how to preserve and can the food once I do get it grown.

Sea berry walk ways

I also did a section of two walk ways between the sea berries and most of the beds that are flower and ornamental around the property were lined with field stones to give a definite edge that was still organic.  It certainly helps when mowing and striming to know where to STOP when approaching the flower beds.

I was the only one that knew exactly where things were in all the beds and I still managed to strim off the heads of several of my lilies.  Although Charlie says that is due to me being “dangerous” with the strimmer!  I mean really, me???

Walk ways and curbed beds

Overall, I do believe the look is coming together.  I recently had someone asking me if I was going for a “show garden”.  BWWWhhhhaaaa, again….ME?  NOT!  It will never be a show garden as I hate weeding way too much for that.

I did hand pick out almost all these rocks and transported the bulk of them to the ranch myself.  I did have a few loads brought of large rocks and boulders, and also some loads of the field stone.  This is an on going project that will take a fair amount of years to complete.

I have the ideas in my head but have had a lot of help executing them with several local workers and Charlie helping out.  Charlie and I did place the paving and stones mostly ourselves but a lot of the prep work was helped with from others.  I have had several folks ask my how long it took me to build the three raised dry stack stone beds.  I usually respond that “We will not discuss that”.  It was not easy, I had to tear down most of what was there and re build it several times and I honestly don’t know if they will stay standing up.  Dry stacking stone walls is fun, difficult, beautiful, an art form and something I am uncertain if I ever wish to try again.  It sounds a lot easier in the books I read before attempting it.  Isn’t that how it goes?

Stone beds

The edgings all lined with rocks serves several purposes.  The rocks give a definite edge to the beds, they keep the weeds down and stop the advancement of the grass, it is organic and looks great, as well as it surrounds everything with lovely stone and rock energy.  It doesn’t hurt either that is just LOOKS cool!

Ran Away….

Ran Away….

I woke up today and asked Charlie if he wanted to go to Grand Haven.  He said yes so we left the house in 20 minutes and were gone.  Ran away and threw the job list out the window.  We took the CJ 7 Jeep down and Chloe went with us.

Red Sun Flower

We walked along the Chinook Pier, stopped into a Celtic shop and bought a few fairies for the fairy gardens, looked at the boats and trains and wandered back.  We drove up and down the downtown shopping area and had a peek at what was there.  Stopped somewhere to grab something to eat and decided to take the top down off the Jeep.  Once it was folded down and tucked away it started to spit with rain.  I mean almost IMMEDIATELY.  I am not joking.  oh well.

We drove up to Muskegon and looked for Korina’s coffee place called the Brew House.  She has been bugging me to get down there and of course since it was totally unplanned we missed her by a short time as she had already left.  Sod’s law.  We meandered back along Business 31 instead of the express way and went through Whitehall and Montague to look for the location that has the farmers market and the artisan market.  I noticed that Dogs and Suds was open finally as every time I had been by they had been closed before.  We got something to eat and meandered home via the back roads.

Melisa and Chloe on the 2 new boulders
Melisa and Chloe on two new boulders

Charlie took photos of Chloe and I sitting on the two new boulders that I impulse bought for the stone circle in the woods project.  They were delivered last week and dumped by the front fence until we get a few more.  We have to decide where they will be place in the forest.  One is two ton and the other is 1.5 ton.

Charlie and the Sun Flowers

Charlie also wanted a photo of himself with the sunflowers to show them to scale.  These sun flowers were planted by the birds on top of my tatties!!  Sunflowers are doing great but I haven’t seen my tatties for some time now.

 

Red Sun Flower

I have been waiting for some time but finally the RED sunflowers that I planted just popped yesterday.  woohoo!

All in all it was an enjoyable day even if we didn’t get a thing done.  On a side note: my new short spikey hair cut really works well in the Jeep.  All that wind makes my hair stand straight up which is exactly what it is supposed to do!

a bit of a catch up……

a bit of a catch up……

It has been ages since I have posted to my blog.  There is a reason.  I had an accident in February that crushed my head between and beneath about 40-50 pounds of wood, ice and snow.  I dropped the wood box lid with all the snow and such on my head when my head was in the box.  It crushed my head in between, hitting me both in the back and front of the head, broke my nose, split my face open and required stitches and an emergency visit.  That has all healed up, but the head injury part did not heal as quickly.  It has been a long hard six months but I am starting to feel better and starting to create again.  Before this it was very hard to be on the computer, type, text, talk on the phone ect.  Just too much input causing too many headaches.  That is why I have been absent….along with a smart phone and internet that has refused to play nice….or smart!!

Dry laid stone dykes

This last week, we have been building stone dyke walls outside around the flower beds.  Dry stacking sand stone and doing some in round field stones.  It will make it much easier to strim and mow.  I have found that all my lovely plants do not always obey and stay in their beds.  Some of the plants like Lily of the Valley in particular, like to wander out of their beds all over the yard.

Beautiful Lilies

We have had some super fab lilies this last week pop their flowers.  I love my double and trumpet lilies.  For a week, every time I walked past the studio the scent in the evening was almost over whelming.  Their blooms are past now and I am finding I am missing their scent.

Sunflower

The Sunflowers have started to bloom.  I planted a lovely variety of RED sunflower that I am still anxiously awaiting to open.  They are sooooo close.  The birds however, planted loads of Black Oil Sunflower seeds absolutely everywhere and those have been blooming ….well…everywhere!!

I have been working on my final project and should have it finished shortly.  The Fiber Face piece is complete.  The backing is sew together, hemmed, pressed and sewn to the front Fiber Piece.  I have to add two more tabs to finish out the top and steam block it.  Than it is done and photos will follow.  I stitched the entire backing, tabs, and hems with my new to me 1954 Singer 99K.  I adore this sewing machine and with it being a hand crank, I can go as slow as I want to.  It is wonderful.  I have been afraid of sewing for years and avoided it since my childhood.  It is so good to be creating and making things that I want to.  Isn’t this machine gorgeous?

1954 Singer 99K

I found two lovely hand cranks.  This 1954 Singer 99K and also a 1957 Singer 15K-80. Charlie has used the 15K-80 to sew himself a felt quilt padded pouch for his new lap top that is too big for his old computer bag.  We went to the Hen House on the east side of the state and met a lovely group of ladies that were quilting.  One explained to Charlie how to do a “french seam” and he did it for his first piece.  I didn’t pay any attention to them as I was more focused on sewing a regular seam somewhat straight and not my fingers included.  I thought he could show off if he wanted to.

I did get several other sewing machines as well.  Five all total.  I already showed you and told you about the 1926Singer 31-15 treadle.  She is an industrial sewing machine.  I also got a 1941 Singer 66 treadle.  I will use these two once I want to go faster than my hand cranks allow.

Last but not least, I got a 1949 Singer 15-91 electric for when I want to go really fast.  All told I bought five vintage Singer machines and have plans to get my sewing, weaving, and spinning nook sorted soon.  Currently they are spread out all over the place and it looks like a fiber and sewing shop exploded in the house.

Good News: we finally located my brand new never been used Juki Serger and the box of all the threads.  We haven’t been able to locate it in the storage units or semi for the last two years.  I was convinced that it was in a specific storage unit which was the only one of our units that was broken into last fall.  I was correct and it was in that unit but was not stolen thank goodness.  It was just very well buried and hidden….enough so that in about 4-5 trips both Charlie and I couldn’t find it.  It is found now so more progress and learning is on my horizon.

Goat Kidding Spring Season was in May.  We had five kids total born this May, with three being sold to new homes.  Fall Kidding season is about upon us.  I have several goats getting ready to kid at the end of August and into September.  Sweet Pea had a single doe in June and it was a hard one for her.  Her milk didn’t come in as good as it should have and the doe kid was very weak.  I was out there when she delivered so I sat with the kid wrapped in a towel zipped inside my carhart for hours.

Aileen around a week old in the barn yard

She was so weak she would have died had I not taken her into the house for two days.  She is now fat, sassy and running around every where.  A blue eyed blue pinto roan off one of my best does.  Her name is Aileen, which is Gaelic for “sunbeam”.  She is Sweet Pea’s last kid as we will be retiring her and finding her a pet home for her golden years.

All the llamas that we gave away have all come back to the ranch.  We decided to get two of them back around Thanksgiving and let the other two go for good.  However, those two also recently came back to the ranch.  All of them we think may well be pregnant.  So we are watching them as certain ones are getting rather plump and heavy.

It has been very busy here on the ranch.  Trees coming down, walls going up, flowers being planted, weeds being dug up, goats coming and going, llamas coming back.  So much activity.

I have started to learn how to sew with a vintage hand crank machine.  I did my first quilt bit that I made to be a pad under the dog’s water dish for drips.  I have been spinning.  Finally I have made three scarves with the Broomstick stitch in Crochet.  I had planned on doing that several years ago but moving state and injuries got me side tracked a bit.  Now that stitch is super fun!  I have woven for the first time with a bulky weight single ply as my warp and silk hankies shredded and used for weft.  There has been so much going on I forgot to tell you all about it.  I know that this is a feeble catch up for so many months of silence but I will do better as I am able to put in more computer time.  Off for now…..

A Revolution of Sorts….

A Revolution of Sorts….

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???

Brush piles

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 and burning the huge piles of brush.

Brush Burning

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 make very little progress compared to this few days with my 1 acre looking nothing 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, jelly, preserves, chutney, 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!!”