Busy as the Bees…

Busy as the Bees…

Creeping Thyme and Firecracker Sedum contrasted with Stone pavers next to the Stone Circle at Alba Ranch. We are in New Era, MI in the woods near Lake Michigan. What a magical place to visit in Oceana County.

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!

Garden Photos on Alba Ranch

Garden Photos on Alba Ranch

I have been snapping a few photos here and there of the garden over the last week as it is so in bloom.  Tulips, Lilacs, Bleeding Hearts (Grace’s plant), Choke Cherry Trees and others too numerous to mention.  All my Columbines are starting to pop and it is super exciting as I bought about 20+ of them on clearance last fall past their prime and stuck them in the ground here and there everywhere.  I am excited because now I get to see what colors they are.  Every time one opens it is a surprise as I didn’t really know what they were going to be.  Soon more of them will be open as the flower heads are just starting to open and I will get some photos for you.

Grace’s Plant aka Bleeding Heart

In the mean time, I have included a few of my favorites.  Grace’s Plant aka Bleeding Hearts are one of my all time favorites.  When I was first married to her son, Charlie, and living in Scotland newly transplanted from Michigan…..I was sometimes lonely.  I started talking gardening and plants with Grace and we both had a passion for it.  One day I remember she handed me this root thing and said “plant it and it will grow”.  I looked at it and she said “No, really.  Plant it.”  Apparently my face showed my thoughts as if I was screaming.  I did plant it, and it did grow and it was stunning.  I love the little hearts with their little bleed bit.  I had the pink with the little white bleed from Grace.  I started calling it Grace’s plant and have ever since.  When I see them I always smile and think of her.  It is hard to believe that she has been gone almost four years now.

White Bleeding Heart

For variation, I tried to grow the all white version in Scotland and it died on me.  But the pink and white one that Grace gave me thrived.  When we moved back to the USA and out to Colorado, one of the first plants that I bought at the garden center was another bleeding heart.  Even at 7500 feet above sea level, on the side of a mountain, in a high altitude desert, that pink and white bleeding heart thrived in my garden.  I would sit on my chaise lounge and look off the mountain ridge down in the valley in direct line of sight of that bleeding heart so I could see them both and talk to Grace.  I remember saying to her “See your hearts and the mountains. Aren’t they lovely?”  I again tried to grow the white one, and it died.

Once we moved back to Michigan, I dug up my pink and white bleeding heart from Colorado and drove it all the way to New Era, MI in a feed sack and pot.  I bought another pink and white form the garden center here as well as another white one.  Third time is the charm right?  The white one faded away, the leaves browned and fell off and the flowers died and it just shriveled up and disappeared.  The pink one that I brought from Colorado and the new one that I bought from the garden center were still going strong but the white one had gone and died on me again!  Imagine my surprise this spring when that white one popped up again.  Success…finally.

My Choke Cherry trees also were dug up from Colorado and drove here in a feed sack. They absolutely adore Michigan weather and climate and I am going to be making a lot of choke cherry jelly this fall.

Newly resided and roofed wood shed with winter wood started

I know that it is June and everyone is thinking of summer and warm weather, but WINTER is coming!!  For those that Homestead and live closer to the grid, we prepare all year long for winter.  Charlie has roofed and sided the woodshed in metal siding to match the garage, studios, hay barn, lean too and wood shop.  Eventually all our out buildings will be done like this and the house will have its copper roof with white stucco.  We thought the out buildings could handle being white metal siding rather than posh stucco.  What I love about this photo, is not only the great job that Charlie did re doing it, but also that our wood supply for the winter is about 25% there.  We are on our way and once we get the wood split and stacked down in the orchard I expect that we will have this years and a good share of next years wood already laid up.  Yes, that is how I like to go into a winter!