Landscaping prep

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Now that the snow is mostly gone and the days aren’t too chilly, we could look around the yard again to see what was growing. The first time we saw the yard was in the dying overgrowth of fall. Now, we could stomp around the yard and try and take the lay of the land while all the grasses were knocked over.

We walked over to the side of the house, around the front field and kept going uphill towards the back. That was when we noticed there were humps in the grass in one spot. A gentle kick and a bit of a push revealed very old and decomposing bales of hay. A further bit of poking around revealed a low rock wall. Since the hay was near the wall, and the ground very dark, we supposed it was part of an old barn.

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That same evening our neighbour to the left of us hailed us both from his yard and came over to introduce himself. Turns out he grew up in our house and I think it was owned by his grandparents. He confirmed we’d found the old manure pile next to the old barn.

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Great! One of the things we decided to do was level out the ground a bit, moving the hay bales, and form a nursery bed for all the perennials we’d found. In one afternoon, Ron was able to use the tractor to level out a spot of dirt for future temporary beds. The ground is rich and dark, full of very well composted manure.

The reason for moving the plants we found is twofold: one, to find what we have and propagate some of the horribly overgrown plants into healthier ones, and two, move the ones near the house so we can excavate the old basement walls.

During our wet & windy walk about the grounds, we discovered a long bed in the front lawn, full of quite huge hostas and some lilies. There was also a smallish rose bush in the shadow of the huge lilac tree out front. The lilac has also had some dead branches removed by Ron. Some of the branches are huge, and some covered in moss, so it is well overdue for pruning.
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Right up in front of the house, under the picture window facing the road, is signs of a garden bed, but not much showing. The invasive bamboo had extended this far, so we suspected to not find much.

I did find a lone peony there and was pretty excited.

Moving on from the front of the house, we went around to the side where the front door is located and the remains of the foundations of the front porch. We were simultaneously delighted and annoyed to find a whole flower bed under building material waste. Here we thought it was just a pile of garbage we needed to move, but no – green was poking around the sides. A quick and careful move of old sheets of metal roofing, and we discovered an obvious long bed of something we didn’t recognize, some struggling Sedum, and a pile of bulbs poking through – probably narcissus. We gleefully cleared those out so they could enjoy the sun again.

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The bulbs will be moved when they are done flowering, since any work in that area won’t start until then anyway.

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Now, on to the area near the back door, which had an obvious garden area with some struggling plants and yet another pile of building materials that were just dumped on top. (Have I mentioned how much this practise ticked me off?)

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We had already identified a couple of large bunches of irises next to the back door, along the foundation. There were also a couple of ferns, a small maple tree in a pot (it might have just grown through the pot), and we were happy to find a quite tall rose bush. There were also some struggling bulbs that had poked up that Ron had found under garbage, so those were cleared out best we could without moving the whole pile.

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While we were trimming back dead growth and moving some garbage to take inventory of what was growing, I was absolutely beside myself to start finding more peony bushes. They are all over the place and possibly quite large. Peonies are picky, so we did a lot of research online abut moving them and worked out a plan. There are at least half a dozen large root systems, and eventually will need to be divided, so we will not want for peonies.

Ron had found a red maple in this side garden and had moved it over to a stand of trees on the other side of the driveway. The small grove has lots of flowering shrubs and a couple of downed trees that we were still clearing up. So the red maple will make a nice replacement here.

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Ron also removed the pile of bricks that was at the end of the walkway to the mud room door. Mostly because it made it hard to turn around in the driveway. The rickety post with the bird feeder also came down.

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When we started to move some plants, we found a cluster of some sort of bulb completely under one of the ferns. I rescued those and placed then in a pot I’d found in the yard. Once the bulbs are spent I can move them to a bed, store them, or place in their final home.
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The new nursery bed to the side of the house now contains two ferns, two rose bushes with dead growth removed & pruned, and a thick row of irises which will be divided whenever I put them back. For now,everything in this side area will stay here for at least a year. We can grow some happy, healthy, tended plants while we work on the old basement foundation and clean up the front garden, taking our time to do it right.

Coming up soon: we’ll rent a dumpster and finally start clearing out all the building material garbage and old sheet metal roofing. That stuff has sharp edges.

Cabinet Update

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Andrea mentioned the island in the last post & included a picture with placeholder cabinets. A drain pipe had already been installed. Since there wasn’t a spot in the existing cabinet arrangement for a dishwasher, we concluded that’s what the island drain was for.

While planning the island design I kept in mind that the cabinets would essentially be freestanding. Secondly, the location of the drain was such that the dishwasher couldn’t really be installed at the end of the island.

The design I came up with was to have the dishwasher between two cabinets that were facing the ends of the island. There wasn’t a wall to anchor the cabinets to so I built a frame anchored to the floor for the cabinets to back against. There will be a small set of shelves behind the dishwasher but I won’t add those until it has been plumbed and wired.

Installed cabinets looking north west
These cabinets and range are along the west wall of the kitchen. The front door was behind me.

The upper cabinets on either side of the space for the electric range had been installed but the lower ones had just been pushed approximately in place. I hadn’t realized that right away and was happy when I discovered it.

We bought the range and dishwasher months before we needed them so that we could position the cabinets around them.

As it turned out, one of the counter outlets didn’t have a wire that went to the electrical panel. Pulling that wire was easier because the cabinet was mounted to the wall.

All the kitchen cabinets are now levelled & anchored in place. The next task will be templating for the countertop.

Kitchen window over sink & cabinets
The windows face south east. On a sunny morning the kitchen is nice & bright.

The thing with the kitchen cabinets

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When we first walked through the house, I was glad to see they had already ordered the cabinets, assembled them, and had them roughly in place. This gave us a good idea for where things were supposed to go, as far as appliances, etc.

There was no sink, but on our second visit I found the sink in a box in the other room. It is this DOMSJĂ– porcelain apron sink from IKEA. By then we had pretty much decided to buy the house, so I was super excited.

My Pinterest board for kitchens is covered with images of apron sinks in country farmhouse kitchens. As my mom would say, this was A Sign.

Once we visited the house a few times, and started thinking and planning the kitchen, we had a good look at how the cabinets were installed.

Or rather how they weren’t.

While the upper cabinets were anchored to the walls, the bottoms ones were not. We also realized the layout of the cabinet pieces by the sink were… less than symmetrical.

As you can see, there was a drawer cabinet, the sink cabinet, a cupboard with a door, then another drawer cabinet. Once we noticed it bothered the crap out of both of us.

So we moved them around.

We also took down the upper cabinets with a thought of using them maybe elsewhere. It really opened up that wall, and the best part was, when you come in the front door you’re not greeted in the face by the side of a cabinet.

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Some open shelving will go here instead – nice and white painted wood with some solid white wood curved brackets. We also made sure that the sink cabinet will be centred under the window.

The island in the kitchen, we also planned out using the upper cabinets, just as placeholders. This helped us decide exactly how far away from the other cabinets it should be, how long and where exactly the dishwasher goes. There is a pipe coming up in the floor already for the dishwasher, so that’s what we worked around.

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And a good thing, too, because the next Monday IKEA had a free shipping sale that day only. We ordered exactly the matching cabinets we needed, and the extra legs we also discovered we needed.

On another day, Ron also went back and levelled the base cabinets next to the sink and anchored them to the wall. He even started cutting the holes in the sink cabinet for the drain pipes, since they come up from the floor.

While we had our daughter Sarah there today, we showed her what we had done and then had an idea about the fridge placement as well. It’s still along the same wall, except we’re going to try it in the pantry alcove instead of the wall near the door.

So we do have progress, it’s just slow. We have loads of time.

Cleaning up from Arthur

Front view at time of purchase

Tropical storm Arthur came through New Brunswick and downed so many trees that we were 8 days without power. The longest power outage I had experienced prior to that was under 36 hours.

Our new property had 10 trees blown over. I expect that all of them were taken down by Arthur. While the trees don’t need to be cleaned up right away, the longer they sit there the more work it takes to clean them up. It’s also more work once the snow gets so deep. Since we aren’t trying to move in as soon as possible, cleaning them up sooner is better.

I grew up around chainsaws. We had a woodlot and had heated our place in Wirral with wood so I’ve spent a few hundred hours working with chain saws. Over the last 10 years I’ve had hardly any reason to use one so running one started out as both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

Almost 30 years ago, I took a job doing pre-commercial thinning which I did for 3 years. The weapon of choice for forestry thinning is a bush saw that hangs from a harness that you wear.

If I remember correctly, my brush saw weighed 25 lbs, my safety gear weigh another 10, thinning an acre required walking an average of 17 miles, and your goal was to thin an acre a day. Running a brush saw could wear you out.

The trick to running a brush saw for 6-8 hours a day was developing a rhythm and letting the saw do the work. You job is to keep track of your footing, where trees, obstacles, etc. are, and guide the saw.

While I was cutting up the tree on the front lawn I realized that I also had a rhythm with the chainsaw. It had probably taken about a half hour for me to get it back. The rhythm isn’t the same as a brush saw because they are different equipment doing different jobs. But, the rhythm is based on the same things: footing, obstacles, what’s next & letting the saw do the work.

It’s safe to say I sleep well after an afternoon on the business end of a chainsaw but I find it relaxing. Given I spend Monday to Friday sitting in front of a computer there are definitely benefits to keeping my heart rate up for most of an afternoon.

Front view after cutting up the downed tree
This was taken from approximately the same place as the front view on purchase picture

Finding the edges of the driveway

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So one of the things about our new house is that the yard is terribly overgrown. Since winter is pretty much here and there’s building supplies all over the small from garden, there’s not much to do.

Walking in the shed door one day, I noticed the ground felt a little firmer. Turns out there were pavers under the “grass”.

Next time I went to the house for the afternoon, I made sure to grab a shovel and start finding out where the pavers where for the path out the shed door.

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We’re calling it a shed right now because back door doesn’t seem right. It’s less than twenty feet from the front door, which is on the side of the house, facing the driveway but not the road. The shed can also be reached by a door off the kitchen, so we could call it a mudroom, but right now it’s full of junk and building supplies. Plus a new window. So shed it is.

After some careful scraping and figuring out where I could run the edge of the shovel, I found a few pavers and a whole pathway.

a pathway!

It doesn’t reach the driveway yet. I was stalled by a pile of bricks left in the way from when the old chimney was removed.

This weekend I again picked up the shovel and worked on clearing out the encroaching weeds and vine plants and dead leaves that were spilling over the backing up space. It’s a handy spot to leave my car so I can just drive out and not back down the entire drive.

So here’s today’s work, tho I haven’t shown the other side of the car. This space is wide enough for two cars, but was so overgrown on the edges, as a driver you just weren’t sure where it dropped off onto lawn.

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Now you can park here just fine. Even though I took up all the space today and parked in the middle.

Further on down the driveway there is less work to clear off because it is raised a bit off the field. It’s mostly overgrown by the house itself.

Mexican Bamboo

Japanese Knotwood

Both the property in Miramichi and the one in Lakeville had a colony of Mexican Bamboo (or Japanese Knotweed). It’s a fast growing invasive species that is capable of killing off most vegetation that does not grow taller than it does.

I succeeded in killing it off on both properties. In both cases, it took 5 years. When I looked out of the window on our second viewing and saw it in front of the house, I chuckled. Having done it twice before I knew I could do it again & how long it was going to take.

When I was working away at it in Miramichi I did some Internet research. I found a site that explained why it was so difficult to kill off. The roots are brittle and are prone to breaking. The root system of the growing plants emit a chemical into the soil. So long as the chemical balance of the soil contains a certain level of the chemical, the broken off pieces of root remain dormant.

My guess is that the broken off roots only have a shelf life of a few years. If they don’t grow within 2-4 years they die. That means that if you can keep it from extending it’s root system for 3-4 years, the remaining roots in the soil die.

Even though the growing season is over, I got a head start on next year. The old stocks get in the way of cutting it back the next year’s growth. It doesn’t hurt that it improves the street view of the house.

After the Japanese Knotwood was cut back
View from the front after the Japanese Knotwood was cut back.