Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Benefits of SLOOOOW Progress Toward My Homesteading Dreams

For the most part, I feel like moving toward my retirement homestead dream is not happening quickly enough. I become overwhelmed and frustrated. I question my sanity and wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew. However, I also sometimes think of the good things about this snail's pace progress - spanning over four years so far.

(The photo is mine - The Shack October 2019. The Slow/Caution sign is available on Amazon).

The tangible act of purchasing the land occurred in 2015. I go camping there as frequently as possible and dream about living there. And I continue to adjust my plans as I wait.

Maybe this writing is an attempt to make myself feel better about going so slowly. This is definitely NOT a jab at people who have the means and personality to make decisions and make the move immediately. I am learning, I think, that for me there are some important benefits to moving at a glacial pace and getting to know my land before building and living there.

I feel like yammering on about the planning in general. There may be future posts that include more detail but today I am sharing my thoughts that skim the surface of my planning.

Caution: this is likely to be a long and boring post for those who aren't in the midst of their own homestead dreaming.

Off-grid or On-grid

When I bought the land, even though the electricity is available, I had grand plans of living off-grid. No bills from public utilities. Woohoo, wouldn't that be wonderful?!  As I camp up there I realize how much I miss air conditioning during the hot and humid days. And the ease of turning a faucet to produce hot, running water needed to comfortably wash off the stink after a day of work.

I also have dreams of raising my own meat. And for that, I imagine using a freezer.  As I imagine a freezer, a fridge, and air conditioning I imagine myself being at least partially reliant on the grid.

As expensive as it is, I'm leaning heavily toward solar and wind systems that are tied to the grid. I have been watching videos of homesteaders who are tied to the grid but don't sell their power back to the utility company. They have a way of flipping their systems to public utilities on the days their solar/wind systems aren't producing sufficiently. I believe I have decided to use this system.

However, as you'll see if you read on, my plans often change.

From the "top" of my yard, you can just barely see 
The Shack roof through the fog.

Many, Many Different House Plans

I believe my house plans is the thing that has morphed the most over time. It isn't easy (for me) to choose a dream home that will best meet my needs (and my finances). This is a sample of my indecisiveness over time:

  • Rebuild and fortify the existing Shack. Nope. Too small at 20 x 24 (480 sq ft).
  • Log cabin with a loft. Nope. Changed my mind. 
  • 2 story Monitor Barn. Nope. 
  • Hire Lancaster Cabins to build a cabin for me. As much as I love their work - nope. They no longer do site builds.
  • Back to the Monitor Barn idea. I sure do love Monitor Barns!!!  But Nope. I never ended up liking any floor plans that would fit in that footprint. 
  • A grandiose home with some sort of 2nd floor "turret" for second floor/outdoor access. Oh yes! If I had a viewing area tall enough, I'd have a 360 degree view. Back to reality - Nope. Can't afford that. I'll stick with carrying my lawn chair to the top of the yard for the that view.
  • Back to rebuilding the existing Shack to save money. Big Ol' NOPE as it seems to be starting to settle and lean downhill a bit. 
  • 16' x 40' ft mobile home plan as a guid with some revisions. This equals 640 sq ft floor plan. And hopefully on a cinder block, walkout basement foundation. Yes! This is my future home plan.

I have finally decided on that floor plan that meets both my needs and the restrictions on my land (Basically, I have to have over 400 sq foot and it can't be on wheels). I have stuck with this floor plan for a long while now. So, I'll make some minor adjustments after getting advice from the builder (i.e the placement of the plumbing), but I have decided on this floor plan. This decision came only after having camped up there for so long. I now know which direction that natural light comes from. Which directions the breeze comes from. How close I want to remain to the tree line so that I can watch the birds and how far down the hill I want to remain to avoid the never-ending, choking dust from the dirt road.

Looking up at The Shack from the downhill side
and through the trees. Showing both why I want 
to tear it down and build new as well as why 
I think a walkout basement 
would be great.

Passive Solar

I have thought a lot about passive solar for warming in the winter time.  The more I camp up there, the more I am convinced that this is a great idea. With ceramic or stone floors and a big old window facing the south view (which is where I want one of the two primary views anyway) I will have a wonderful source of heat every time the sun shines during cold weather.

Daisy and I soaking up the sun during our last camping trip. 
The other side of The Shack registered a cool 40 degrees.
 But we were warm and toasty laying in the sun. The sunlight
alone allowed me to let the fire burn out. Times like
this have made me confident that passive solar heat (in 
combination with wood heat) will work out great!

Wood Heat

I sure am getting a lot of practice with the wood stove. Cutting firewood and learning how to burn it so that it lasts longer.  I LOVE the little woodstove that came with The Shack and will definitely be using wood heat in my future home.

Kindling in the woodstove. I'm getting better
at starting a fire quickly.

Water Catchment

Due to the location of The Shack, high on the ridge, I cannot have a well dug.  I'll have a water cistern and water delivered to that storage system. But I will also have a rain catchment system.  A natural water source is a "must have" for many homesteaders. I hope that I don't later regret choosing land on top of a ridge that doesn't have any sort of spring or well. We'll see. 

It often seems like the weather on top of the ridge is more dry than in the valley below (I often see that it is raining below me but then the rain clouds blow around and past my little piece of land). However, when it does rain it fills my camping rain catchment system (a blue kiddie pool) quickly. 

I think because I've been so frugal with water during my camping trips - carrying my water from the apartment, using a local spring, and catching rain water - I think my awareness of water usage will help me be okay. Only time will tell. 

The amount of rain caught during one brief downpour
one day in October. This makes me feel confident that
a good rain catchment system will help keep an adequate
water supply at all times.

Where to Put What: animals, trees, and garden Oh MY!

I am still changing my mind every few days about where to place the gardens and the small animal barns. I do know that I will refrain from planting trees just south of my home due to my plan to use passive solar. I'll need to avoid having shade and shadows on that side of the house.

Beyond that, I'm undecided where to plant things.

My thoughts about where to place the garden is ever-changing. I had initially planned to have the garden at the 'top' of my yard. But if I have rain catchment at the house, I'd have to carry water from down the hill to the top. No thanks. Some days I can barely carry myself up that hill! 

I definitely think my idea of having a grandiose garden is changing. Since my soil is ridiculously rocky, I will plan on doing hugelkultur beds scattered here and there. And, I think my largest vegetable garden area will be butted up against the house and fenced in - an attempt to keep the deer from eating everything to the ground. 

I also am undecided about where to place the small animal barn (I plan to have goats and rabbits at some point) and the chicken coop. There are so many things to consider.

Barn North of the House - On the bedroom side of the house, which means I'd hopefully be able to hear any night-time drama or predators. But it will also mean that the house would be downwind during those hot summer days when the wind blows from that direction. A possiblity of having a stinky breeze! Yuck.

Barn South of the House - On the livingroom side of the house. So that barn and animals would be in the view from that large, passive solar window side of the house. Good and bad. The barn and animals would be in my view.... and the barn and the animals would be in my view. I really like the idea of having a view of only yard and woods.

Barn toward the top of the yard from the house - This seems like the best placement. I could easily deliver hay and feed at the top of the hill. However, it also means walking up and down that steep, steep, STEEP yard to do chores 2+ times a day. At least I wouldn't need a gym membership!

Pests: Deer, Bear, Groundhogs, Raccoons, Squirrels.....

The game cams, slow progress in moving toward living there, and the camping trips have been very educational in the way of knowing how prevalent and damaging the wildlife is up there on that ridge.

I definitely am working hard to maintain a large portion of my land that is a welcoming and healthy habitat for the wildlife. But with that is coming the awareness that wildlife is damaging to plants and trees. The wildlife will wreak havoc on my future vegetable gardens if I don't plan carefully.

I've had to take down bird feeders due to the raccoons and bear. That makes me sad. The deer have killed MANY plants I've started up there (raspberries, blackberries, a Japaneese Maple, and several fig trees - just to name a few) which makes my checking account unhappy. 

The raccoon emptying the bird feeder. He stole 
the suet feeder. Somewhere I have photos of the bear
stealing my birdseed. And he/she destroyed my favorite
feeder. While I love the wildlife, my visitors are
very destructive. 

More Pests: Invasive Plants (Stiltgrass, garlic mustard, massive poison ivy vines and a new vine still unidentified)

I am learning about invasive plants and the poor health of my woods. I have a long way to go in this area. But it is definitely a focus of mine. Succession planting, prescribed burns, and disturbed land are new but important phrases in my knowlege base.

I have learned that because my land (the yard portion) was previously an apple orchard, then left unattended, has created a perfect setting for the invasive plants to come and take over. 

This is the one area that is not benefitting from my very slow move to living there. If I lived there, I could pull more garlic mustard out and cut down more poison ivy vines. If I had a water source, I'd feel comfortable burning out some of the stiltgrass on a windless day. I am hopeful that when I live there, these things will get done. 


I think the best result of my dream taking years to evolve has been that I am thankful for the land and the experiences I've had thus far. I have new skills and new confidence in some areas. I am thankful for the time I've spent there and gifts Mother Nature has given me. And I will be even more thankful for the home that has taken so long to build. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you

Related Links:

I've known I want to build a "small" house for a long while. This post explains 3 Reasons I Want to Build a Small Home

I do have 2 solar panels from Renogy. I LOVE them. Unfortunately, I have to replace the worn out, new-to-me batteries with new batteries. But the time that I did use the Renogy panels was helpful and convinced me that at least some of my power will come from solar. 

If you are looking for a THOW (tiny home on wheels) you MUST check out Lancaster Cabins (Keystone Kabins). If I could have a THOW on my land I would absolutely buy one of these. Check out my review. They are beautiful, quality cabins with a reasonable sticker price. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

My Basalt Bird Bath - The Popular Spot at The Shack

In April, I splurged and bought a basalt stone bird bath by Stone Age Creations. I wanted that bird bath from the moment I saw it at Sun Nurseries but it's price tag was almost as hefty as the stone itself. But I splurged. And I'm so glad I did.

You can read my original review about the bird bath here. Or jump directly to the Stone Age Creations page on Amazon here

Almost immediately the birds began enjoying it. And I enjoyed watching the birds. The eastern bluebirds seemed to visit the most often and the most tolerant of me being at the window to take photos.

Since April, I've moved the bird bath around (due to felling a tree and cutting the firewood) but it is still located at the old apple tree. I've also placed a Moultrie game cam on the wall of The Shack facing that direction. When checking that camera, I see that the bird bath isn't just a favorite of mine and the bluebirds but of an assortment of visitors. 

I thought I'd share some of those photos with you. 

These are the first observed visitors, my friendly eastern blue bird couple. 

I moved the bird bath to keep the tree from falling on it when we were taking out dead trees and cutting firewood. In next couple of photos the bird bath is just to the right, out of the frame. When I checked the camera in October, I could not figure out why several cats, a ground hog, squirrels, and other visitors walked from left to right.  In hindsight, I think they were all going to have a drink in the bird bath.

One of the many "wild" cats I have that visit. I'm not sure if they are dumped domestic cats or feral cats. But I have 4 regular feline visitors.

Yes, this is a bear!  No bird feeder to steal. Nothing to eat that I know of (do they eat weeds and wood chips?). I took the bird feeders down awhile ago because of the raccoon and bear birdseed thieves. 

Each time I check the cam that is hung on the wall of The Shack, it changes position just slightly. And I moved the bird bath after we got all of the brush and wood cleaned up. The following photos are from checking the cam during my November visit.

This deer apparently likes the bird bath. Night after night the cam catches deer in this area and drinking from the bird bath.

The bluejays came to visit (yes, plural. One on the bird bath and one in the tree).

What I realized, through the many pictures taken by the game cam, is that I am so glad I purchased such a heavy and sturdy bird bath. Especially since it is a water source for such a variety of animals. Other (taller or lighter) bird baths would likely tip over as some of the animals tried to drink... like this calico cat and black and white cat.

The only drawback is that I do not have any way to keep the bird bath full between my visits. I am looking forward to living at The Shack for many reasons. Keeping the bird bath full so that the animals (like this deer) don't find a dry watering hole.

Surprisingly, when I went camping this weekend, I put water in the bird bath and within 2 hours, the birds were back. Almost as though saying, "Hey slacker, where have you been?" and "Am I glad to see you". 

Related Links:

I love visiting and shopping at Sun Nurseries. It seems they have everything. Including fountains, bird baths, garden sculptures, and stone benches. Check out my review of that AMAZING plant and garden store here

I love my Moultrie game cams. I watch for clearance sales at local box stores or sporting goods stores. I can pick them up at 1/2 price or less this way. If you want to read my review of my first Moultrie, click here. If you want to read the update and see some of my first photos (including my first bear sighting on my own land), click here

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you

Moultrie has been the brand I rely on. However, there are many brands of quality game cams to choose from. Whether you are interested in improving home security or watching wildlife I highly recommend a game cam. It's really fun to see what goes bump in the night where you aren't watching.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

October 2019 Autumn Colors

Country roads, take me home. Rt. 50.
Late October in Almost Heaven, West Virginia is a wonderful time of year. The scenery during my camping trip last weekend was breath-taking. I could not stop looking at the sights around me.    

I don't recall last year's autumn colors being as vibrant this year. Ms. Judy (my realtor) agreed with me. She said that last year was too dry. The beginning of this October was super dry also, but apparently the rains came in time to create this beautiful autumn canvas.

Isn't Mother Nature the most talented artist?

I love the many moods of the ridges. Bright morning sunshine burning off the thick fog - exposing the colors of the leaves.

By the way, I won't hold it against you if you find yourself singing as you look at these. In fact, let me just link the song here and we can both sing along. 

Wow. I love that John Denver cover. Such a beautiful voice she has. Her name is Emily Joy. I've never heard of her before and as soon as I finish posting my picture, I'm going to listen to more of her music.

Meanwhile, these are my country roads and almost heaven photos. 

My woods. The view from the back deck. At first I thought there was a fire burning - the orange and gold leaves were so bright.

US Route 50 runs from Maryland to California. I drive a portion of it to get to The Shack. It is a gorgeous, scenic route. Especially in the autumn.

There's not many things that make me as happy as dirt roads in the fall (outside of my kids and grandkids of course). 

The leaves were falling like snowflakes (sorry for shooting photos through the dirty windshield).

The winding road leading to Fort Mill. 

I believe this is Mill Creek. I know that it runs along Rt 50 and runs into the South Branch. 

*  *  *  *  *  *

If you ever had a chance to drive through northeastern West Virginia during peak autumn colors, you should do it. It's gorgeous scenery and plenty of beautiful mountain highways. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Tales - Sweden's Crisis Preppers

I recently watched a very interesting show by SBS Dateline titled
Sweden's Crisis Preppers. Because Sweden is viewed as a country that takes complete care of it's citizens, I was confused by why Swedish people would need to prep. My American acquaintances often use Sweden as proof that free college and free healthcare are doable. Because I know precious little about Sweden, and because I'm ultra-nosy, I watched the episode. It was so interesting that I've watched it three times since. I think there are indeed some important lessons to learn from Sweden. But maybe not the lessons my friends have been trying to tell me.

photo courtesy of fotojet

Sweden's Crisis Preppers

Sweden is often cited as the country that is doing "it" right. The country that provides free health care and free education. We all should follow this example, my friends and acquaintances tell me. Then I learn that the citizens of Sweden being sent literature encouraging them to prepare for crisis or war via "prepping".

Say what? 

Yes. The citizens have been sent literature from their government explaining how they should prep. This video interviews a couple of citizens who are prepping, and who have received the literature (but I believe both were prepping prior to the literature). The video also shows persons who are involved with Sweden's government, military, home guard, and civil emergency agency.

What I learned was that this video highlights "one of the world's most peaceful countries preparing for the worst" by educating students and citizens about prepping and decision-making during emergencies.

I learned that in the early 2000s, the defense spending was slashed. And a military of 700,000 is now only 50,000. And half of that number consists of the Home Guard. The Home Guard is comprised of citizen volunteers who train for military and medical emergencies approximately twice a year. 

I learned that the defense knowledge was lost because people thought they were safe. Currently, the government is slowly increasing the investment into military defense. But the current plan, if war occurs in their country, is to "get other countries to come and help us".

Say what?

Swedish preppers know that if something happens "you can't depend on the government to bring you food or get you water. You have to do it yourselves." It seems that this thinking is validated by the literature that was sent to the citizens and by the government deciding there is a need to rebuild their defense.

I do feel the need to say that I've never viewed anything by SBS Dateline prior to this video. I know nothing of their typical reporting styles, trends, or biases. Here is the Youtube version of SBS Dateline's Sweden's Crisis Preppers if you'd like to watch. 

My Idea of Prepping

Preppers are often viewed as outliers. There is a stereotype that preppers are only a handful of fringe people who are a bit off. The recluses that want to live as hermits and are a bit paranoid. 

In my opinion, there are some extreme preppers who are a bit over the top. A bit more extreme than I ever could be. But overall, I think there is something exceedingly important about being prepared and self-sufficient.

There have been portions of my life when there has not been enough food to eat. I had relatives who were impacted by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Though they did not talk about it, I knew that was why they were very frugal and saved many items because they "might need that later."  I was a teenager during the midwest blizzard of '78 and we were cut off from anything for days. And now I live in Maryland, where hurricanes can cause some damage and power loss. These experiences have given me a desire to be able to take care of myself for at least a few weeks at a time.

I think prepping has a very personal definition for each person who prepares. For me, prepping means that I'd love to have a large, well-stocked pantry. I'd also love to go into retirement at The Shack with the skills to feed myself with the food and animals I've grown. For me, I believe these skills help to keep a healthier me and a healthier environment. I do not think my goal is to be 100% fully self-sufficient. I don't know if that is possible for many people and I'm certain it is not possible for me.

I do know that I don't want to depend on the government to take care of me. I don't trust that will happen. Especially in light of this new knowledge that not even Sweden is prepared to care for it's citizens during a crisis event. The video, Sweden's Crisis Preppers has only reinforced my desire to continue to increase my prepping and self-sufficiency.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Thuja Green Giant From PlantingTree

Thuja Giant Green from PlantingTree
I am very excited to share that I have found another excellent source for obtaining plants and trees for my land at The Shack. This is a nursery that delivers big, healthy plants right to my front door. 

PlantingTree is an affordable online garden center. Their website is full of information about each plant; assisting me to create a wish list of appropriate plants that will help me reach my goals on my ridge in West Virginia. 

PlantingTree Online Garden Center

PlantingTree is a family-owned landscaping business turned online nursery and garden center that offers reasonably priced plants. Their website shows their love for plants - I think they like plants as much as I do and they are clearly far more knowledgeable than I am. 

Their website has a large amount of helpful information that will allow you to choose a perfect plant for your yard or garden. 

Note: PlantingTree contacted me to ask me do a plant review. I received a Thuja Green Giant at no cost. I do not believe my review is biased by that and people who know me, know that I have no qualms about speaking out about things I'm unhappy with. 

Thuja Green Giant

I chose a Thuja Green Giant for a few reasons. Some of those reasons are:

  • deer resistant
  • drought tolerant (once established)
  • fast growing
  • evergreen
  • nesting habitat for birds
  • dense screening for wildlife
  • creates a natural privacy screen 

The folks at PlantingTree can describe the plant far better than I can. Here is one of their many informational videos:

I believe that it was Thuja Green Giants that grew as a privacy screen around the pool area at my apartment complex. Unfortunately, the new management removed these giant, cone-shaped shrubs and also removed the habitat of many birds, squirrel, and rabbits in the process. I miss those green, "feathery" giant shrubs.

The plant I received from PlantingTree was dense and healthy. It was much larger than I expected! (What I expected was a small 6-10" tall plant with drying limbs similar to holiday evergreens I've received in the mail). The Thuja was recently watered, the pot was wrapped in plastic - secured with a zip-tie, and shipped in a sturdy box that withstood our rough and tumble local shipping.

Unboxing my Thuja Giant Green from PlantingTree

Why Evergreens at The Shack?

My land in West Virginia is on top of a ridge. The views are amazing but many things about my land are difficult. It was previously an apple orchard. Although, I have no idea how apples were successfully grown there. The terrain is harsh and the "soil" is really large gravel. Planting things requires the use of a pick-ax. 

The deer and other wildlife are voracious. More than half of the things I've planted have not survived; having been eaten or rubbed by bucks during rut. There are pests that have killed the Ash trees and a different pest that killed the Elm trees before I purchased the land. It will not be easy work to learn and begin forest succession planting and management. I am only in the beginning stages of learning this process.

My land is half "yard" and half wooded area. My long term goal is to revitalize my woods and provide increased habitat for the birds and wildlife. Increasing the health of my land is going to include many things and a lot of hard work. One of the things I'm focused on is creating a stand of evergreens. 

The neighboring lot has a small stand of pines just on the other side of the property line. My plan is to mirror that stand with a larger and thicker evergreen grouping just inside my property. My hope is to provide increased habitat for birds and wildlife.

The neighbor's small stand of evergreen

If you are considering doing some landscaping and are concerned about price and quality, check out what PlantingTree has to offer. I think you'll be as happy with your new plant as I am. 

My big, healthy Thuja the day it was delivered
PS. I planted my Thuja at The Shack last weekend. The weather has been extremely dry and I'm back at the Apartment. I wish I was there so that I could water my plants daily, until it rains, but I'm not.  Watch for updates about my evergreen grove. 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Why Did the Bear Cross the Road?

Why did the bear cross the road? I don't know. Perhaps to give me an unforgettable visit to The Shack. Perhaps as my totem animal bringing a message. Perhaps to scare me half to death. I'm really not sure but the experience was amazing!

I totally forgot that I had not shared this photo! What a shame. It was such a cool thing to happen.

I was camping at The Shack in June. I was trying to do some weeding, clearing of the brush pile/poison ivy patch, and just hang out and relax. One late afternoon, I went to the top of my hill and sat to relax, birdwatch, and hopefully snap a couple of photos of the Cedar Waxwings. Initially, I had my nose buried in a magazine about planting habitat for birds - making a wish list for shopping at the nursery.

The breeze was cool and felt great after the busy warm day. I closed my eyes to relax and thought of how thankful I was to be there. I intentionally tried to clear my mind of all of my usual negative thoughts. I began to mediate.

I opened my eyes and immediately, out of the corner of my eye and over my shoulder, noticed a black blob in motion. I realized what it was just in time to snap a couple of photos. This bear came up from the corner of my yard, crossed the road, and disappeared. Thank goodness my camera is usually set on a burst of photos!

It had to have been more than just coincidence that made me open my eyes at that moment and see that bear. It gave me goosebumps thinking about how statistically lucky that was. Or was it some sort of divine intervention.

What a wonderful experience.

Initially, I watched to see if the bear would come back. Then I decided that it was time to go back into The Shack and watch from the windows just in case it did come back!  Yes, you can laugh. I laughed at myself while I kept watch from inside.

What a wonderful memory. That was an extra special day at The Shack. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

August and September 2019 at The Shack

I've slacked at sharing stories about my progress at The Shack. In part, because the progress seems minimal and in part because I'm struggling with keeping up with daily responsibilities. Despite feeling this way, I have gotten some things accomplished up on my little piece of heaven. 

I keep trying to convince myself that even if I get nothing done during my trips up to my land, it is a camping trip. And what a wonderful place to relax on a day off. The views definitely can't be beat. And if I do get something done - either for my future life up there (ex. fruit trees for me that need time to mature) or for the health of my land (ex. cutting out the invasive plants to give the native species a chance) that is a bonus. 

I have to work hard to keep those things in mind and avoid the negative self-talk that stresses me out. (ex. I'm too old, too inept, too whatever, and who am I kidding thinking that I'm going to retire up on that gorgeous homestead on that West Virginia ridge). I have to work hard to give myself permission to spend time just watching the clouds go by. If I give myself enough time, I can see a T-Rex. Can you see it?

But I digress. On to the things that I/we managed to get accomplished over a week vacation and several weekends in August and September.

I have 4 pawpaw trees planted. Two in the "yard" and two in the woods. The two in the yard were purchased from Sun Nurseries and are already around 4' tall. For the past two years I see them starting to put out fruit and each year those little buds are nipped off. By deer I assume. The deer leave the tree alone otherwise, but those fruit get nipped off almost immediately. I have finally fenced those two trees and hope that deters my ravenous four-legged neighbors.  

My oldest son came to visit. It was most excellent to have him see the place and give me some feedback about my long-term plans. We discussed the health of my woods. I have so many invasive plants (garlic mustard, japanese stiltgrass, and poison ivy vines) that I worry about. But I also have only mature trees in my woods. Dying, injured trees and mature trees. Nearly no new growth. My plan is to work hard at planting seedlings in the woods. I have been gathering sugar maple seeds and a variety of acorns, I hope to be able to start many seedlings on my own.

It was also awesome that he cooked breakfast on the deck one morning. Yes, that's breakfast. A teeny cookstove and an MRE-type breakfast inside. 

In my yard I planted a Sioux Crepe Myrtle, a Chicago Hardy fig, and a Brandywine Viburnum. I also continued to work at trimming back the poison ivy and brush in one of the two brush piles in the yard. My plan is to allow the brush piles to remain but on a much smaller scale. They are good habitat for the wildlife. And I am focused on continuing to add plants that attract birds (i.e. the Service Berry is a favorite of Cedar Waxwings).

I pulled out the Pig Root weed that was trying to choke out my Service Berry tree seedling. I weeded my flower bed (where the lilac, rose, purple coneflower, and Japanese Maple are planted and doing well)

I checked my game and anti-trespassing cams.  As usual, I have deer. Many, many, many deer. So many that I worry about them having adequate habitat and food. 

We planted a Rhododendron in the woods. 

I smoked an active wasp nest out of my grill. It was the same aggressive type of wasp that stung me in the neck last year. I was prepared for them and I didn't get stung this time.

Whatever has been snacking on my purple coneflower was kind enough to leave one gorgeous bloom behind for me. I just planted it this spring so I am hopeful that it will continue to grow and spread. 

My son fell a couple of dead trees. One of which I was worried might hit the corner of The Shack if it fell on it's own. It fell in the direction he wanted it to but it was propped up on a thick limb, the steep hill, and the apple tree. 

It has been slow work cleaning up the branches and starting to cut it for firewood. But I'm making progress. Quite an accomplishment for someone just learning how to use a chainsaw. Not only am I making progress but I also now know how to take apart and clean the chainsaw.

During my visit last weekend, I focused on watering everything. It had been exceedingly dry. Clearly no rain for days, if not weeks. I'm not sure if the poor, parched viburnum will survive that drought. The lack of rain validated my plan to install a rain catchment system.

So many things on the "to do" and "to learn" list. I'll just keep puttering along and enjoying my camping trips to The Shack.

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