Sunday, October 20, 2013

farewell to the barn

Pulling up the driveway for the first time on a sunny June afternoon in 2010, we couldn't help but notice this tired but none the less lovely old building. We weren't to learn until this spring that the tiniest southwest corner of her was on our property. The farmer who rented the land she sat on merely planted around her and Mother Nature did the rest.

Within two months of our buying our property, a couple of fellows who knew one of the land owners came to remove the interior beams with the intention of using them to construct a winery. One old barn on acres and acres of land meant next to nothing to the owners so they had no objection. The dismantling crew thought she'd be easy to strip, but after wrestling for hours only managed to remove a relatively small amount of lumber, destroying her in the process. (We recently learned that the wood they removed is still sitting in a pile unused.) And so the weeds and volunteer trees and wild grape vine and Virginia creeper grew around and inside of her.

When the land owners did nothing to remove the wreck despite its dangerous condition and attraction to critters I didn't want to interact with living here on my own, we began the process of buying the property so we could remove it ourselves. In May of this year we became the owners of nearly one more acre of land and a pile of splintered wood, shattered windows, with a cracked and broken stone and cement foundation which had once been a functioning dairy barn.
First I asked my good friend Eli if he would like to look over what was left and for his labor take whatever he could use. He came with a couple of his sons, his horses and wagon and removed 3 wagonloads of scrap metal which he exchanged for cash. He also took a load of various other things he could put to use on his farm by either rebuilding them or trading them. (While Eli worked inside the dangerous barn, I "hired" his two oldest sons to move rocks for me. There were so many lying about and I thought they'd be perfect to rebuild the fire pit near the pond. The boys eagerly moved a few dozen and earned themselves a bit of cash. Their mother later related the joy with which the boys showed her their earnings that morning.)
Then we tried to find anyone with an interest in old barn wood that might be able to salvage a bit more. No one was interested in the work involved. We took a few pieces of barn board for ourselves and then decided it was time to lay her to rest.
We began by using a brush hog to clear the field in front of the barn, and then by hand Jerome and I removed trees and shrubs on the north and west sides. This allowed better access for the work to come.
Last weekend the heavy machinery arrived. First a handful of broken and tightly clustered box elders were pushed to the back corner of the lot to be cut for firewood next spring. Then the enormous hole was dug. This took a great deal of skill as our lot line was very near the edge of the hole and we desired the silo to be protected in the process.

Once everything was underground, Steve moved in with the dozer. I do believe he had a great time with that part of the job.

Sunday morning dawned crisp and clear and our eastern border had been transformed.

Jerome wanted to stand on the dozer and pose for me, so early on Monday we went out for a few photos.

Just in time! a few minutes later the trailer came to collect the machinery.

Our lovely autumn has shifted and suddenly there's not only a chill in the air, but rain and ice, cloudy days and frosty nights. Putting the garden to bed has been our most recent priority. But when wee can, we're working to remove debris and rocks in preparation for the delivery of additional topsoil and a sowing of a winter cover crop.
And then this bit of earth will rest.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

we finally made our bed

My bare root strawberries had arrived in May of 2012 and went into pots, and there they stayed. Each time Jerome visited these past two summers building the strawberry bed was on the "to do" list. It never made it to the top. I was determined to get those plants in the ground and not put them potbound back into the garage for another winter.
Ok, we were ready. But just how would be do this?? And where would we get the additional soil we would need for the raised bed?
One answer came from our getting the grounds around the barn prepared for the demolition. We discovered we had several old railroad ties partly buried along the old property line. Getting them liberated enough to determine which were best took some time and much labor. Moving them to their destination took ingenuity. Using the riding mower as a tow, we fashioned a system to drag them over, at times with me driving and Jerome pushing from behind. We did have to replace one or two when we saw how the original few didn't quite fit together. But we had this hauling maneuver down pat by then and it was actually kind of fun.

Jerome had to saw one of those giants in half by hand. What a guy!
We had done a preliminary job of removing the weeds and grasses in the area, but now had to really clean it out well.

Then for the soil...
We purchased what we hoped would be a good mix of bagged soil, peat, and compost but found that this late in the season the bags had grown some moss and in a few, some non desirable greens. But with a bit of trouble we cleaned that up and put the soil mix into the bottom of the bed. Then I emptied several very large tubs of a good quality potting mix that I had brought from a favorite garden center in Illinois and had used this season to carry over plants I brought from the city garden until I was able to settle them into the beds here. With the addition of this beautiful soil, our bed was nearly bursting. Plus, all of the strawberries were already rooted in the soils they had clinging to them in their pots.

On the weekend following, Mother Nature watered them in well with 3 inches of rain. And then she smiled to let us know we'd done a good job.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Yesterday, a perfect fall day, we dispatched the piles of brush and dead trees we'd been collecting all year.

Jerome outfitted his "new" car with the necessary hardware and for the first time in years and years pulled a trailer.

A surprisingly short while later, our many large messy piles became one very useful mound of fresh mulch.

The ice storms last spring brought down several long heavy limbs from our beloved pine.

With Dick's able assistance and his trusty chain saw these are now a neat stack of logs, standing at the ready near the firepit.
A very satisfying day.