Sunday, May 29, 2011

Foggy Ontario Days in the Smokey West

When I woke up this morning, I could barely see the mountains out the window. I was surprised, it isn't the season for controlled burns, and with the wet weather we have been having the last few weeks a forest fire from natural causes seems strange. I know now that it is smoke, from a distant forest fire, but it still reminds me more of humid Eastern Ontario summer haze. Since this morning it has gotten smokier and smokier, until the mountains were completely obscured, and even the hills on the far side of the main valley were looking pretty pale. Its now spitting rain lightly, and after finishing up some mowing as the rain started, I am back inside.

This sort of day reminds me of the humid hazy weather of my younger years, and it makes me miss Ontario. I'm sure the fact that my best friend (who still lives in Ontario) got engaged (YAY!) last weekend has nothing to do with it, nor does the fact that my parents are coming to visit next week. :)

While I was mowing I thought about how things ended up like this - me so far away. When I moved out west, I had no intentions of being out in BC for much longer than to get my master's degree. I even had a PhD project all lined up back in Ontario when I was close to finishing my MSc. But right after I finished school, I met my now husband. Shortly into dating him I backed out of the PhD, just a couple months before I was supposed to move back to Ontario and start it.

Instead I moved down to the US, and within a few months was pregnant, married, and we closed on our first house. With my best friend getting engaged last weekend, and doing a home inspection on their first place this weekend, we're finally both settling/settled down. But I never expected it would be so far away from each other. I think we always imagined having homes close to each other, with woods out the back, and spending lots of time together. Obviously we would each have our own families, including kids or not (they still aren't decided on whether they want kids, obviously we do! :D). But we would be around each other constantly.

I obviously have good friends down here, and my husband and I love where we live, and I am very happy with him, with the life we have set up for ourselves here, and she feels the same there, but times like this, when important things are going on in her life, or in my life, I wish we lived way closer! However, even with the distance, I am still SO VERY HAPPY for her and her (now) fiance, and can't wait until their wedding!! In the meantime, I'll enjoy pretending it isn't smokey out and instead is summer humidity :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Planting Peppers

Yesterday morning Little M and I planted out 8 of our pepper plants. I had been hardening them off on the porch for the last week, although they hadn't stayed out overnight yet. I was running out of space under the grow light & right beside the window, and the peppers were starting to outgrow their pots.

Peppers are a plant that you really want to avoid having them get pot bound, because if they start to slow down their growth, it takes them a while to get sped back up again after then get more room to grow. So I really wanted to avoid that happening, but I didn't have enough larger pots to transplant them all into the right size pot. I potted up one of each of the largest types, and then put 2 of each of the 4 types I am growing this year out into the garden! I still have at least 2 of each type (and more like 8 of the Jalapeno's!) in the sunporch, just in case the ones outside don't do well.

After I planted the peppers I mulched well around them to keep the moisture levels up. We have good irrigation water, but as we are planning to be away for 2 weeks in early summer I don't know how much water they will get during that period. This way they will have a better chance of doing well while we are gone. To the left and right of the mulched peppers are a row each of fingerling & russet potatoes.

While I was down in the garden I planted out some of the tomatoes, as they too were getting pot bound. I only planted 4 of the tomato starts, although I have space for 2 or 3 more plants.

Little M and I then checked on the pea plants, which are doing really well!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Escaping beyond control (grass, that is)

It rained again this weekend, making our fields grow greener, helping the trees and my few garden plants that are in, and bringing the water in the river up almost to last weekend's first peak. In the past 2 weeks I've managed to get some of the copious areas of grass (weeds) mowed, but not everything.

We've never mowed everything since we've been here, although we've managed to keep the upper areas mostly cut at least once. Now I'm in that stage where I will, by over or under achievement, determine how much will be kept regularly mowed this summer. It's exhausting, just looking out across the greenery and thinking about getting it all mowed.

Oh, did I forget to mention that this mowing is done with a walk-behind mower that isn't self propelled? Yeah...

The fields look so nice when they are all green and evenly cut. They also look nice when the grass is long and the wind blows through the leaves. Minus all the weeds, and minus the cheatgrass that dries and gets in our dogs' ears and requires vet visits and anesthesia to get out... Oh the grass...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Finishing upgrades to our irrigation system

Ok, so for those of you still reading about my irrigation issues, I promise this will be the last one you will have to read for a long time! First, the good news - yesterday while Little M was napping I fixed the broken pipe, and installed our new turn on & hose attachment! Here is the after picture, just before I filled in the hole with dirt (and before I mowed all those weeds masquerading as grass!)
So here's how I did it. And this is all thanks to the people at the local pipe store that helped us out on the weekend to make sure we got all the right supplies! Yesterday the weather finally cleared up and the grass dried off, so I decided to get down to business. I started by laying a towel down on the ground to keep dirt off the pipe parts while I was putting them together. I put all the pipe parts and glue and primer down on the towel near where the broken pipe was.
Then I used the PVC pipe saw that we picked up to level off the top of the broken old pipe. It wasn't that hard, I just had to focus on making a level even cut. Oh, and I had to dig more dirt out around the pipe so that I could get the saw and my hand down to that depth.
It was interesting (and hopefully not a problem in the near future!) to notice that the pipe thicknesses were different. The new pipe is 'schedule 40', which is much thicker and sturdier. It's actually surprising that we hadn't broken the pipe before now, with the old rusted out turn on! I think that longer term we likely need to replace all the old pipe back to the main pipe line, but hopefully it can last another few years.
The next step was to get started with the primer. The helpful guy at the pipe store told us to first apply a coat of this purple primer to all PVC surfaces that would be touching once we put the pipes together. This is where I went slightly off track... I managed to get the primer all over my hand when I tried to open the tight lid of the can... Oops. Not to worry, I then read the can and it didn't talk about any skin-eating properties of the primer. Great. So I kept going and swabbed the primer (there is a little brush/swab thing attached to the lid of the can) all around the inside of the joiner, and around the outside top of the old pipe in the ground.
The primer can completely dry, but I didn't let it, and instead started right on applying the blue glue. I made sure to swab the glue generously and evenly over the area where the pipes would come in contact, to get a good seal. The pipe guy said to not skimp on the glue, so I slathered it on. I didn't take a picture of the glue on, because it sets very quickly. I had just enough time to slather it on the outside of the old pipe in the ground, slather it on the inside of the joiner, and then push them together. After I pushed them together all the way, I gave them a slight twist, to allow the glue to bond together even better. Then you are supposed to press the two together firmly for 30 seconds. Here is the result:
I kept on doing the primer and then the glue, to assemble piece by piece to get all the pipe sections together. Here is a mid-way through picture, just after I installed the hose attachment. This is what I am most excited for - having a hose that we can use for watering our fruit trees, that isn't running off of our house well & electricity!
And here is the after picture:
Not that I want to start putting together PVC pipe for a living or anything, but it was really quite simple! I think the most important things to consider were exactly what pipe pieces you need, and where you want all the attachments to sit (for example, we had to go back for another joiner and more length of pipe since we wanted the hose attachment to be above ground).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekly Homestead Happenings

The past week here on the property we have been dealing with a lot of water issues (sorry to those of you who have read all of my numerous posts lately about water, I promise they will end soon!). Luckily we have been able to fix or see an end to them all. The week before last the well pump went out, which through my rushed frenzy meant that I broke one of our irrigation turnouts as well. Then last weekend our other irrigation turnout sprung a leak, which we still haven't fixed as the creek is WAY too high (we're talking highest we've ever seen it!). So mostly for the past week we've been planning irrigation fixes.

The upside of this is that we've been able to plan to redo the irrigation the way it will work best for us! I've been spending time researching drip irrigation, and learning about how all the different micro irrigation sprinklers and drippers work. I've got some 3/4 inch poly pipe for the orchard, and am planning to save up for some more for my garden to make watering easier and more efficient.
We've also planned a new pipe system so that we can have a hose going without having the main irrigation line on, so we can water our fruit trees without using our well. This is great, because it means we have water to irrigate with even without electricity. Technically we had this before, but with the old metal pipe system it was very hard to get good pressure, and we didn't have pipes to get to the orchard area. Here is the new head system (the old one is to the right/behind), with the garden hose connection lower on the pipe below the pipe turn on.

We planned to get this in on the weekend, but it has been raining buckets here and we have to wait until the pipe outside dries out a bit to get a good glue seal with the new section. It has been exciting seeing our little creek (that runs dry by late summer some years) just raging along, and the main river down in the valley is getting almost to flood levels too! After the last day it has started dropping, but with snow levels up in the mountains reported to be about 150% of normal, if we get a series of warm sunny days in the near future, the river level will start rising fast again and we may get a real flood.

In the meantime though, I'm excited to keep planning and saving for all the little bits of irrigation piping and tubing to keep our fruit trees healthy and our garden growing strong. Since we moved here I have dreamed about having a simpler system to water the lawn and trees and garden, and we are finally moving towards that goal. It will also be really nice to not have a little stream running down our yard towards the garden & fields from the old (and now broken) leaky irrigation turn on that we used to have!
Head on over to the Homestead Barn Hop to see what other homesteaders have been up to this past week!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Irrigation update - high water

Well I thought on Wednesday that we would get at least one of the irrigation issues solved. Unfortunately, although the ditch master was able to find an old irrigation head that he would be able to swap out for the broken leaking one, the creek is too high to be able to turn the pipeline off safely.

He went out and turned off the main intake by covering the end of the pipe in the upper lakes, but the pipeline apparently also is able to pull water from the creek that runs down our little valley. Due to us having a very high water year (the main river in the bigger valley we feed into may have a 10 year flood event later this month or early next, only time will tell!) the intake into the pipe that is located in the creek is really hard to get to, and neither myself or the ditch master felt that it was that critical to get our leak fixed. The pictures below are of the creek where it goes through our property and the vacant lot above us. We've never seen it this high!

We'll try again next week to fix the western irrigation pipe and I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, we are again using the irrigation to water our new larches, even with the leak :) The eastern irrigation hopefully will get fixed this weekend, as we don't need to shut down the system to fix just our portion :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Water Sources - 3 for 3 broken!

So on the weekend, guess what broke? The 3rd source of water we have on the property... My husband went down to check on the new little larch trees we planted last week, and discovered a tear in the irrigation turnout on the west side of the property. The water was gushing out, filling the depression around the turnout, and spilling across the ground downslope.
Sunday I spent the day mostly digging holes to try and figure out if there was a valve to turn the water off between the break and the main pipe line. No dice. Here are all the holes and the ditch I dug at the western turnout...
Although the eastern turnout has a great gate valve & filter set up (which is still turned off since we haven't fixed the riser that I broke trying to put the fire out last week, read about that here), the western irrigation line is directly stemmed off the pipe. So there is no way to shut our valve off apart from turning the entire pipe line off. This picture shows the great set up at the eastern turnout.
Guess what Little M and I get to do today?? Yup, that's right - dig more holes, work with the ditch master, and hopefully get our irrigation fixed!

I'm not that worried about getting our line up and running again - I'm hoping to set it up so that we have a new valve, and just cap the end until we can save up more money. Its shocking how quickly these water-related expenses have been piling up the last couple weeks! If we have our own valve, we can remove the cap and get our irrigation line back up and running in the future without having to turn off the entire pipe line. (I'm sure our neighbors will thank us).

I'll try and remember to take pictures to show you all how we get it (and the eastern irrigation line) fixed!

Friday, May 6, 2011

When the water goes out

Wednesday evening, about when I should have been putting Little M down to bed, instead I was beating at burning grass tufts with a dead branch. Why? Well, our well pump went out, and then in my rush to try and get water to my waiting husband before he completely lost control of the field he was burning, I managed to snap the top off of our irrigation pipe.

It all started normally. My husband was down in the bottom side pasture burning the weeds that got out of control last year. He was taking care to keep the edges of the field wet where it interfaces with the creek-side shrubs and trees, so that the fire wouldn't jump over into the trees and get out of control. He had a hose connected to the spigot near the well, but all of a sudden he wasn't getting any water pressure, and then the water quit entirely.

Little M and I happened to be out on the back deck checking out what he was up to, and he called up to ask whether we had any water on in the house. We didn't, and I suggested he check to make sure he hadn't melted part of the hose. After doing a bit of rushing around down in the field, he realized that the problem was more serious than a melted hose - there wasn't any water coming out of the well.

I grabbed the baby and rushed back through the house and out to the irrigation turn on. That's when things went from bad to worse. I had Little M in one arm, and was trying to unscrew the irrigation turn on with the other, but it was sticking, so I tried to slam it open more violently. Yeah, that was a bad idea! I managed to completely break the plastic pipe that entered into the metal turn on, meaning instead of getting water running down the irrigation pipeline that could be used to control the fire, instead I had a river of water gushing up out of the ground and trying to wash out our yard.... Ooops...

I yelled at my husband that the irrigation wasn't going to help us, and we headed back out to the fire, him with a shovel, me with a branch I picked up on my way. We were lucky, most of the areas were on their way out, and there were just a handful of spots that were still burning. Between the two of us we got the fire out before too long, and without exposing Little M (then on my back in our Ergo carrier) to too much smoke... whew!

We were so lucky! We headed back up to the house and stopped to turn the irrigation water off at the turnout (lucky I've been working on piping irrigation ditches at work lately so knew what to do!). When we got back to the house, we quickly realized that the power was still on in the house, meaning the well pump shouldn't have been off. Then we looked at the breakers and realized that the well pump fuse had blown. We switched the well pump breaker back on a couple times, and each time it would make a scary sounding noise as it started to overload, then it would flip off.

That started a series of phone calls - our parents to see if they had any insight, some local friends to see who they would recommend along the lines of plumbers and electricians, then some calls to leave messages for said plumbers & electricians to see if anyone would be available to come out in the morning.

Yesterday morning, I had to work early, so I left my husband at home to deal with the well. He kept me updated throughout the morning and into the afternoon as the boom truck arrived, they pulled the well pump, realized that the motor had gone, arranged for a refurbished (and much cheaper!) pump to be brought down, and installed it. Boy was I glad to hear my husband call and tell me that the water was on again!

We still have to fix the irrigation pipe, and I definitely think we need more water stored in the house for emergencies - the hose in the field is at a lower elevation than the house, so after the well pump went the hose drained the house water, so we didn't even have the normal amount left in the tank when the power goes out to carry us through. We were lucky (and are lucky!) to have great friends and neighbors who helped us trouble-shoot the problem, who suggested the right well people locally to have come out, who offered to let us come over and shower or fill bottles, and who listened to me tell the water story over and over at work. Thanks everyone, you know who you are!

That was our excitement for the week!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Adapting to change

The week before last my husband's work schedule changed (again). While at the moment it seems like this schedule will be in effect until at least the beginning of June, I don't want to get in trouble by counting on it. This new schedule has meant we need an additional day of childcare during the week, and on different days than we had needed childcare previously. Luckily this month our childcare provider had a spot open for Thursdays, so we switched to 3 days a week this month, and that solved half the problem, but the other day (Tuesday) is not an option. So I now stay home with Little M on Tuesdays.

The downside is that on one hand our childcare expenses are up this month and on the other hand my work hours are down, so unless I make efforts to fit work hours in at home or by staying longer on the days that I am at work, my pay drops. Arg. I know we can make it work and likely not even have to mess around with our budget this month, and I'm trying to look on the up side (ie I get to stay home with my daughter more), and not worry about the summer months, but I'm finding it hard to adapt to this new schedule, and I'm finding myself slipping into resenting the change.

I'm sorry for the complaints, really, my life is not bad at all! And if I end up having to reduce my hours, its not like it means we will go hungry, or go into debt, so really, I should be adapting better here! I guess I need to take some time and get used to the change, and give myself some flexibility in meeting other commitments while we settle in to this new schedule. Happy thoughts, right? :)

My first reaction is to try and work my schedule around to fit everything into my week - added time with Little M, additional hours to make up for the increased childcare costs (oh, and did I mention additional gas costs since my husband's work is suddenly not providing a take home vehicle?), different nights that I am responsible for making dinner, different days that I need to take her to daycare, etc. I know, however that the only way I can fit in all of the extras is to reduce my sleep time, or reduce something else which would most likely be 'me time'.

I find that if I don't sit down and make lists to prioritize my time when things change drastically, then I get caught up in keeping up, and the things that are most important to me get lost in the shuffle. So my next step is to sit down and make a list of all my commitments, and see what and where I can cut obligations or time... Now I feel better :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Little M's Nursery

Today I'm writing a post to link up to HOUSEography's house tour. This week is all about touring through kid's rooms, so I'll be sharing pictures of Little M's nursery! I don't have many before pictures, since my hard drive crashed and I lost a couple months of pictures dated right around the time we moved in here, but let's picture a room with gross dusty dirty pet-stained carpets originally a tan/beige color. The walls were a neutral tan also. It was pretty blah!

Here is an early picture when we were still in the process of putting the wood floors down and moving furniture from our old house into this one. This room the second one to get flooring, so it was the catch all for bins and books and things that didn't yet have a place to go. The room is painted & the new floors are in, but notice the old metal framed slider windows, and the lack of baseboard & some window trim.
At the time, we knew Little M was on her way, so we picked a pretty light blue for the room, although once the floors were in I wished we had picked a slightly different shade to match the reddish color of the floors better! However now that her room is more set up it isn't as noticeable :)

Here is the current room, it isn't as finished as I would like - the trim still isn't up and I need to figure something other than a blanket out as curtains!  I also want to make a mobile and put more art on the walls. But we've put a bit of art up, replaced the window so it stays warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and we've moved most of the non-kid related stuff into other spots in the house (like when I moved my desk into the closet of the guest bedroom). Here are a bunch of pictures touring through Little M's nursery, I hope you enjoy them!
The wooden wall hangings were baby shower gifts from my husband's little sister who lives in Hawaii.
This corner is where we read stories and where I nurse Little M. This picture shows the wall color the most accurately. The wall to the right of the flowers is where I want to hang some art. Still need to figure out exactly what I want to go there, and make it!
The large clothespins on the wall hold cute memories - some of the flowers we received at the hospital after Little M was born, and a beautiful dress made for Little M by the sister of one of my co-workers. The closet is a bit of a mess, oh, and it really needs some doors! I've been wanting to build a built-in shelf/box system for the closet, but it just hasn't been high enough on the priority list to get done. I suppose I could at least measure and design it, maybe in the summer when it gets too hot to be outside.
I spent some time organizing all her books by color, which I've been meaning to do for quite some time. I think it looks nice like that.
The pink and black quilt was made by some of our local friends; it's absolutely beautiful. They found police vehicle fabric (my husband works in law enforcement), and on the other side there are wild stallions (cause we live in the wild west, you know!).
Above is a close up of the quilt so you can really see how beautiful it is!

I couldn't resist adding this picture, I was trying to tidy up her room to take pictures, and she wanted to 'help' me. She was content to sit on the chair and play up there with an assortment of the blankets, toys, and books that I was trying to tidy! (Oh, and the multicolored blanket she is snuggling under was knitted for her by my mom!)

I hope you liked the tour of Little M's nursery! If you want to see more people's nurseries, head on over to houseography

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Garden sprouts & sunporch seedlings

This week for the homestead barn hop I'm sharing the garden progress I've been seeing. Both my Sutton's peas & sugar snap peas are coming up in the garden.

The thornless raspberries that we planted last year are doing quite well. Although longer term we will likely move them to raised beds nearer the house, for the time being we are just trying to keep them from spreading too much in the garden.
The garlic is doing really well, and to the left there is a little onion that I must have missed last fall!
Beside the garlic & lone onion are several garlic chives that overwintered well, and past them are the strawberries, which have been taking over since I planted them last spring.
I planted some russet potatoes between where the tomatoes and peppers will go. Hopefully we have better luck with them this year. Last year we didn't manage to grow any potato plants, and the year before our one plant only produced 2 small potatoes in the shorter-than-normal growing season after we moved in.
Inside on the sunporch my seedlings are doing very well. There are 4 types of peppers, 3 types of tomatoes, some onions, some yellow & orange marigolds, and some new little herb sprouts - mint, lavender, oregano, and rosemary. I'm pretty excited to have the herbs. In past years I have tried to grow herbs for the garden, but I've only managed to have some rosemary, basil, and oregano inside on the kitchen windowsill. Outside they have ended up succumbing to too much competition with weeds! Hopefully this year, with it being the third year of having a garden in that spot, there will be fewer weeds!
Click on over and check out the other homestead's joining in to the barn hop today!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...