Homestead Report 36: May 16, 2019

This week’s major project was fulfilling part of the “support” garden goal: building the grape trellis we’ve been talking about for two years while our grapes dragged the garden fence to the ground and allowed the rabbits in to eat the beans.

completed arbor/ pergola/ trellis

After much consideration and browsing of photos, I drew something up, made a cut list, and asked our local hero neighbor Cory at Northwoods Forest Products if he would be able to supply the lumber. Sure enough, he found cedar to mill for the posts in northern Vermont, and hemlock locally for the upper parts. A week after he dropped off the lumber, Charley and I redrew the plans completely differently (since I lost my original drawings), dug the holes, set the posts, cut all the lumber in the garage while it rained, and screwed everything together on Mother’s Day morning.

Nothing is flat around here, and I’d decided that keeping the arbor level would end up looking best… so I borrowed a level and got to work… and the optical illusions started. It was so hard to believe the level was correct that I took it inside and put it on the floor and wall to prove to myself that it was actually right on. The post closest in the picture below is about 5′ from the ground to the top; the one farthest away is almost 8′. The slope of the hedge/ road makes the whole thing look a bit like it is falling down, but hopefully when it gets covered with vines the optical illusion will vanish.

We have a lot of white violets near the garden.

Part of the reason we hurried to finish it all in just 2 days was that as we started to build it, tree swallows were taking interest in the nest box adjacent to one of the posts and we didn’t want to scare them off. When it was done, we were worried that they wouldn’t like how their view was obscured, so we added a new birdhouse on the front of it. Sure enough, Charley saw them bringing nesting material to the new box this morning.

We also spent some time this week delineating the beds in the lower garden, mulching paths, and generally setting ourselves up for soil success.

I’m a big fan of Lee Reich; I first heard of him through the fantastic garden blog awaytogarden.com, written by Margaret Roach, and now each winter/ spring as we get out the pruners I sit down with his guide to fruit trees “Growing Fruit Naturally.” Just a month ago, my sister gave me his book “Weedless Gardening.” The concepts he embraces are nothing new—as kids, our parents admonished us not to walk on (and compact) the soil in our garden, but coming back to this as an adult with my own garden makes me want to make it more clear to everyone who might wander into the garden where it’s okay to walk and where it isn’t. I’m also trying out Lee’s method of smothering the lawn with layers of newspaper and mulch, both as paths and as new beds that will get a layer of compost and straw on top of the mulch.

In the hoophouse, the greens are so abundant that we’re eating huge salads every day and I can’t even tell that anything has been picked.

The ostrich ferns have given us one fiddlehead from each plant in our breakfast omelets.

Seven plants from Margaret Roach, set in the ground five years ago, have now become 33 vigorous plants!

Many fruit trees and bushes are blooming right now—the plums are already finished, and the peaches look lovely (but I forgot to take a picture of them…)

lowbush blueberry blooms
gooseberry
honeyberry, a kind of honeysuckle that makes large, sweet, oblong blue berries with the orange mint moth
Asian pear tree, with “Julia” pear in the background

And we’re getting daily visits from our prickly neighbor, who happily munches dandelions, bedstraw, grass, and the occasional strawberry leaf. He (or she) calmly eats as we pass by with a wheelbarrow, hang the laundry, or sit down nearby for a visit.

Our recent bird list has been growing quickly as the weather warms. The daily regulars are: American goldfinches, ruby-throated hummingbirds, gray catbirds, northern cardinals, dark-eyed juncos, eastern bluebirds, chipping sparrows, tree swallows, barn swallows, yellow-rumped warblers, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, ravens, American crows… Today we had a nice close look at a gorgeous male chestnut sided warbler in a cherry tree.

Happy spring!

A final note today: last week Northfield held its local elections, and I am pleased to say that I have completed my term serving on the Selectboard. It has been interesting, at times challenging, and left me as a more well-informed citizen. I’ve grown into a tougher and more confident person. I’m looking forward to more evenings free of meetings, fewer stressful decisions, a lot less paper entering my house, and the opportunity to spend more of my time serving the community with “deep digs” into the issues nearest to my heart (land and energy conservation) instead of the higher-level attention to the broad range of issues I’ve been involved in these last three years. To the new board, I wish the best of luck, gratitude, and wisdom.

2 thoughts on “Homestead Report 36: May 16, 2019

  1. Lovely photos, lots of effort paying off! What a difference you have made in such a short time–a private paradise!

  2. The garden looks so neat and tidy! Nice work. I am also impressed with your grape arbor. I can’t seem to manage any big projects lately. Next time you can flip the level around. If it reads the same way both ways it is good!

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