An ArborVilla End of Winter Update!

in Homesteading5 months ago

Good morning (or other applicable daytime reference) dear readers, I hope this post finds you reveling in the joys of life! I've had a lot of irons in the fire lately, and I've found that it helps me keep a level head when I pause to share it all with you. Thank you all, once again, for rewarding me while being my therapist 😂

Some of the extra irons in my fire are from an early starting work season. Because of the relentless rain last year, we didn't finish a large state funded project we were working on. I believe that the state waived the mandatory fines for being behind schedule, because of the horrible weather, but apparently they want us back on site this year two months before they're going to actually let us do any work. As a result, I'm hurrying to catch up a few recertifications. I thought I would have another 4 weeks, the call today said 12 days.

Before I got that call, and another 3 inches of snow, I had been getting some work done outdoors. Things are beginning to spring to life already, and the signs are everywhere, like this rodent hole. Most likely a woodchuck, possibly a rabbit. I've seen a lot of bunny tracks in the snow this year, and I'm hoping they won't be the newest garden pest.

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There's been other, less identifiable signs as well. These odd ditches, or collapsed tunnels, are new to me, and have shown up in a couple areas around the property. If anybody has any idea what fresh hell this is a portent of, please let me know in the comments!

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There's still ice on the ponds most of the time, but it's thin enough now that we can see the goldfish through it. I think we may have lost one this year, but I've thought that before, and the 'dead' fish just turned out to be wallowing in the mud.

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Despite the still freezing temperatures, I've been trying to get the gardens ready for some super early brassicas and peas. I noticed that one of the willow branches I used on the support frames I built last year seems to have started growing in place.

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While looking for signs of early daffodils, I saw this chamomile coming back to life. I think this was a new variety that Hedge Witch was trying out last year. I didn't know that any of them had even lived, but apparently several of them not only survived, but grew through the winter!

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This kale, and some other brassicas I haven't identified yet also survived the winter, and are getting off to an early growing start.

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I've also been working on an old Briggs and Stratton twin cylinder engine for a friend who started his own paving company. The engine is from a small vibrating roller that he has which had been blowing smoke and losing power. It was definitely burning quite a bit of oil in one cylinder, but the engine hadn't suffered any major damage. He plans on using this machine a lot, so I'm doing a full rebuild for him... everything will be new but the crankshaft, heads, and block.

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I've also been continuing to work on converting the old pet enclosure into the new chicken enclosure. Most of the work that isn't frozen to the ground is already done, as far as the demolition goes, but where this sits on the back side of the house, it gets almost NO sunlight, and the ice here is being very stubborn. It's also very slippery in this state, and I've gathered a fat lip and couple extra bruises while taking this thing apart.

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Another thing I have to get ready for the chickens is this small cage that we will keep them in while they are babies. I had loaned this out, and then forgotten about it after it was returned. It got left out in the yard, and blown up to edge of the woods in one of our storms. It took a while to locate, and then some more time to cut down all the thorny things growing around it. Then it took more time to find the bottom of it, and get everything cleaned up. We still need to locate and clean the feeders and other accessories, but we still have some time.

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In between all those things, I've also been trying to get more of the old brassica bed leveled up. I posted about the start of this project last spring, but it never got completed last year, and that garden went completely feral. I'm hoping to finish it this spring, and post about the completion as part of my Gardening On A Slope series.

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One of the reasons that things have been so slow going in the brassica bed is the same reason I wanted the bandsaw mill so badly... dead trees. You can see in the picture below that half the forest has fallen, but not ALL the way down. The area around the brassica bed still has a lot of potential life-enders hanging in the trees around it, and it doesn't take much wind to make me run out of there!

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The reason I don't want to just chop up and burn all those trees is because I also have things like these piles of hasp close canning jars, which I need more shelves for. Ash boards make great shelves, and I hope to be building a lot of them this year.

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That mostly sums up the things I haven't already posted about. I want to thank you all for coming to my DIY'ers Anonymous monologue, it really helps for me to talk these things out with you and get them off my chest.

I'll start the wrap up there, and thank you all for stopping to read! I hope you enjoyed my indulgence enough that you'll be chewing your fingernails short, anxiously awaiting the arrival of my next content. Just to mix things up a little, I want to end this post with a pic, one of a bumper sticker that I liked so much, I couldn't bear to put it on the car.

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Those look like vole tunnels.

I've heard of them, but haven't had any experience with them before. Thanks for the heads up, sounds like I have some reading to do!

Yeah they are pretty destructive to trees. They tend to eat the soft tips of new roots which eventually stunts, kills or causes the trees to topple.

If you can find someone with the work dogs for it they are the best way to deal with them in my experience.

I haven't seen any signs of them near the orchard yet, mostly just around the garden boxes. I currently have an abundance of raptors in the area, so I'm going to just set a couple spring traps near where they seem active and see if the hawks can keep this under control. I don't know anyone with dogs that are trained for this, but I do know a few ways to lure in feral cats.

Yeah they are hard on all vegetation. My experience with them just mainly involves trees. I am unsure how well the raptors or cats will deal with them because they spend most of their time below ground.

Some people use small metal weather vanes to create vibrations in the ground to drive both voles and moles away but I have heard conflicting information on how effective that is.

Penn State's website had some good looking info that covers my area, and I'm pretty sure these were from meadow voles, which apparently stay close enough to the top that birds and other predators will get them, and they can be caught with regular mouse traps. Pretty sure I saw one in the house this winter, and mistook it for a gerbil. I also had a lot of garter snakes in the area, which is probably why I never had moles or voles before. Letting the chickens run free for the last 4 years really decimated my snake population... another reason why I've been waiting to replace the chickens.

Enough trees have been coming down around here that it's going to change my local ecosystem a bit, so for now I'm just going to keep a close eye on things and see if they manage to balance out. I don't mind a reasonable amount of loss to pests, as long it keeps the overall system healthy. Ground diggers like this may actually be able to save me a lot of labor when it comes to turning this clay into soil!

Neat! The voles I have dealt with always burrow deep enough that the dogs have to dig them up.

LOL! Chickens are hard on everything!

I don't mind a reasonable amount of loss to pests, as long it keeps the overall system healthy.

Yup!