Saturday, 22 February 2014

First-Attempt Quilt

I have been trying to keep busy this winter. You might recall I found some fabric in a charity shop before Christmas. I added to that collection over the holidays and decided to attempt a quilt. After enjoying hours of looking at patterns, I chose one that I thought I could handle.

I have worked on it after the kids are in bed, and when Husband was home on days off. It is coming along nicely but I have not decided if quilting is something I will take on as a pastime. Once I saw all the squares lying out together, I thought I might like to try another and do a better job of it. Some of my squares are quite "out of whack" but others are surprisingly neat and tidy. I can understand why people love making quilts--it is very satisfying to see the work come out as planned.

the material I used was either free or purchased at second-hand shops.
I purchased the white material and the backing (below).

 Since material and batting are costly, I wanted to learn to quilt using inexpensive material. I am not a fan of purple, but in all the colorful material cost about $4. The backing cost about $7 on sale, and the white was $6. The other day I found batting for $13, which would bring the cost of making this quilt to about $30 Canadian.

 I've finished the quilt top and will leave the final steps until next winter. In the meantime, I've cut the material for a baby quilt (a post and pictures to come soon!)and would like to finish it entirely before the weather gets nice enough that I'm outside every day. It was -20C in the wind today--I expect getting the baby quilt finished in time shouldn't be a problem!

I used to work at the women's shelter in town. When women and children leave the shelter to start a new life on their own, the shelter gives them each a clean new blanket to take with them. For Christmas next year, I plan to donate this blanket to a woman leaving a domestic violence situation, and if I can get one done I plan to add a crocheted baby afghan to the donation. Have you attempted a new craft this winter?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Rock Work

We are a family that loves rocks. Husband brings home landscaping rock and I continually find rocks in my boys' coat pockets. Our piece of land is very rocky, as I've mentioned, and before winter settled in for the year I started to use the rock as part of my landscaping plan.

I believe that we can have a beautiful yard without breaking the bank, and our philosophy is that if life gives you lemons you should make lemonade (or rock walls out of rocks, as the case may be). With that in mind I started two rock wall flower beds this fall. The two are joined by a wide stone path that can accommodate our four-wheeler and trailer or a ride-on mower (when we get one).

 The plan is to fill the rock wall with topsoil and have plants spilling down the sides of the walls, on either side of my stone path.

The dirt-covered rocks were picked from the topsoil
as we returned it from the pile it was in all summer. To
level the soil and plant grass we picked rocks...and picked...
and picked....

I ran out of time and the snow fell, so these walls will have to be filled with soil and planted in the spring. So many projects to look forward to!

This is just one of the stone paths that we have planned for our yard. I love the different colours of the rocks and really enjoy placing them in a pattern on the ground. Have you got a favorite garden pastime? 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Tree Update

This summer, before our house even arrived, we planted a shelter belt of trees along the main grid road approaching our acreage, and along the lane way to our yard. If you have been following the blog you might remember that I had ordered 180 one-year-old maple, 200 one-year-old poplar and 120 three-year-old spruce. This chunk of land is extremely rocky so it felt like we had to dig 3 holes for every tree we planted. It might not have been that bad, but by the time 500 trees were in the ground we were T.I.R.E.D. We had a lot going on at the time--if you're interested you can read more here.

We rented a post-hole auger for the weekend and Husband dug the holes. I followed with a bucket o' trees while we kept the boxes of trees moist in the shade. It is important to not let the roots dry out.

We began by staking a twine out in a straight line and using a measuring tape to space the trees. But our land is so rocky we ended up pacing off the distance and doing our best to keep things straight and evenly spaced in spite of the rocks.

You can faintly see the row of dark circles--holes waiting for Colorado Spruce

Spruce trees were spaced 10-12 feet apart, with a 16 foot spacing between the next row of trees (Northwest Poplar). We checked that the roots were loose and not bound up in a coil, and planted them to the depth that they had been at the nursery. In the picture below, you can see the darker line on the tree stem. Once it was planted and the hole filled I stepped all around the tree to ensure there were no air pockets in the hole. Then on to the next tree.

The trees are hard to see, but the row
 goes beyond the orange pail in the distance
The trees needed a deep watering once they were planted. It took almost 4 days to do all the planting and watering--in part because of the rocky terrain and also because we were using a long trailer to haul the water tank for watering. It was awkward to get into position so that the gravity-feed tank and hose could even reach the trees. I'm very thankful that we now have a water tank in a small trailer that I pull behind our quad. Once we were living at the house and had running water it was much easier to care for the trees.

We tried to water every couple of weeks during summer. It is recommended to water once a week during the first year, every two weeks the second year, and so on. For deciduous trees, give one last deep watering in August, and then stop. You do not want new growth to begin before winter. For evergreens, water late into fall and a generous final drink after deciduous trees have lost their leaves. The Government of Canada had a very helpful site, but since the prairie shelter belt program was cancelled the website no longer exists. You can still find plenty of information on line; I use the Alberta Ag and Rural Development site if I have any concerns about our trees.

All of the trees in these photos were purchased at I was very pleased with the condition of the trees when they arrived, and I was especially happy that delivery was free. The trees arrived in 3 very large boxes, so delivery was an issue for me. Along with the poplar, maple and spruce, I also ordered Amur Maple, Siberian Larch and Paper Birch. I planted all of these in a plot so it was faster to water them. This year we will decide where to put them as we work on landscaping the yard. As of the fall, all of the larch had been eaten off by insects or animals, but the maple and birch appeared to be doing well.

birch trees in the summer

We have had some extreme winds this winter. In a two-story house it can seem especially windy, so I am considering where to plant trees this summer in hopes of blocking the west winds in the future. I don't want to block my view so will strategically place trees along the edge of the lawn. More on that when the time comes! This is an existing yard site so we have mature spruce and lilacs to the east and a hillside and bush to the north and somewhat to the west. Along the north, as well, our shelter belt trees curve along the lane and along the hill. When those trees grow up we will have wonderful shelter.

This winter we had enough snowfall to bury our little spruce trees in a nice insulated blanket of snow. Around Christmas things warmed up and a lot of that snow melted, and I got concerned that they would be exposed to the cold and wind--and there has been plenty of that! We have had more snow now, though, and the trees are once again tucked into a snow bank.

 Above, a spruce tree in the snow. Below, you can barely see the top of the next tree over. It is the little point to the left of the center of the picture.

I am looking forward to seeing how our trees fared over the winter. There are a few spruce that have browned off, so I might get a few replacements when I can assess how many I will need. I would also like to find some native trees in ditches and out in my dad's pastures to see if they do better than nursery-grown seedlings. But I will leave that post for another day!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Worth a Try

I follow the blog Little Home in the Country and have been introduced by Sherri to the Ripe Near Me initiative. What a great idea! Any gardener has (hopefully) experienced an excess of produce at one time or another. This site seems like a fabulous way to swap or sell that crop, and meet like-minded folks in your own community at the same time. Even if you are not a gardener, it is a way to locate locally grown food.

The site is new and there are (as yet) no members in my area. Hopefully we can get the word out and, by the time harvest rolls around, share some of our garden's bounty!

Happy gardening!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Still Kickin'

Well, February is here and along with it the annual struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Temperatures have been -20C and colder for what seems like forever. I consider myself so lucky that I don't have to struggle my kids out the door to a sitter everyday so I can rush in the frigid cold to get to work. Having said that, the daily routine can get, well, monotonous when going outside or into the basement are taken off the agenda. That said, we can't play in the basement anymore because it is now framed and the stack of drywall takes up all the free floor space. As well, the garage is being insulated and I hope to be able to park in it within days!

Winter can wear on us, but as I tell my 4 year old, busy people are happy people. Just because we are indoors does not mean we need to mope or spend our time in front of the television (although that sometimes happens, AHEM!!)

Here are some shots of the projects that are taking place around here these days.

Crocheting dishclothes is the perfect busy-work while watching 'lympics with 4 year old :)

headboard stripped of varnish and ready for a good sanding.
I may have to leave it raw for some time-- 4 year old refuses to let me paint it!

I looooove how this $3 garage sale chair turned out.
It is the 2 year old's chair--painted--so that it can be hosed down after meals!

Did I mention I love this chair?

My little brown rocker that matches this chair is still at the farm and my kids fight over who gets to sit in it. I found this chair at the local charity shop, another $3 find. I stripped it and painted it red and gave it a rough sanding. The boys keep it in the bathroom so they can reach the sink to wash their hands.
The winter has gone by so much faster in our new home. We have visits from gramma and we go to the farm often. Husband is away working so staying busy is really important. How are you passing the time this winter?