~ For people who are passionate about respecting the earth, walking in nature, observing wildlife, local diet, making do, repurposing, organic gardening, foraging for wild plants and fungi, natural health, scrumptious healthy cooking, renovations, DIY, crafting, raising children simply and mindfully, taking time for stillness, and living in harmony with the seasons.
On Saturday, E came over to plant her first garden! In preparation, she chose and bought 5 packets of seeds and brought them over. She will be growing lettuce, peas, cucumbers, orange carrots and a fancy purple striped carrot. Friend, J, came over and helped us haul the potting soil. Here we are making our way to the greenhouse.
It was a cold morning so we were grateful to be working in the greenhouse. I had set aside the back bed for E’s garden and had found a stack of old plastic pots that were left behind by the previous owner of the cabin. We decided to grow her vegetables in pots so that I can move them outside once the weather is warmer (the location of the greenhouse is in partial shade), and also so that (if she chooses) she could put a whole pot in her wagon and wheel it home to harvest the fruits of her labor with her family’s participation.
E began by arranging the pots then filling each with a mixture of potting soil and compost. She planted a different vegetable in each pot, taking care to read the directions for spacing and depth.
Then she watered each pot and made labels out of plastic garden markers. E read how long each will take to germinate and we figure that by the time she returns in two weeks that she’ll have baby plants sprouting in each pot! In the meantime, I will keep the pots moist and warm. Later, we’ll build a mini trellis for the peas and the cucumber to climb up and I will scrounge around for a few more pots so that she can plant potatoes next time! Once school is out, E can visit her garden as often as she likes to garden and weed and, the most exciting part…. to harvest!
At last! At long last, the greenhouse has a new French door! Let me remind you of what the greenhouse looked like last year before I tackled the restoration project:
I don’t think that the greenhouse had been used in quite a few years. Of course, I immediately fell in love with it!
Here is the ‘almost-finished’ project last spring. The last thing it needed was a new door. The old is was hollow and had a family of bats living in it. All summer long, whenever I was working in the greenhouse I could hear them scratching away in there.
Not too long ago, my wonderful friend B found this French door in his sister’s garage. As it was no longer needed he brought it over to the cabin, cut it down to size and moved the door knob from the old door to this new door.
Installing it was a challenge as there wasn’t a single straight or level line in this ramshackle building! Thankfully, B was up to the task with chisels and planes! Once the door was installed, I applied two coats of primer, two coats of exterior black paint and a bead of black exterior-grade caulking around the windows, inside and out (again, using painter’s tape on the glass for this task to get a perfectly straight line).
I spent yesterday afternoon vacuuming cobwebs and washing the entire building inside and out. Then polished up the windows and installed a small hook and latch to keep the door from blowing open (the latch of the old knob doesn’t always catch). As you can see, the glass door will let in much more light. I will build a few bat houses to install nearby as I really do appreciate them.
Finally, I planted the plants! This year I put in cherry tomatoes, two types of roma tomatoes, many herbs (especially basil), and a variety of salad greens in the back as they don’t mind partial shade. I also reserved an small area for my friend E who is going to have her own bit of garden space and will plant some of her own seeds next time she comes over.
Now onto the Medicine Wheel garden project where today I am building raised beds…:)
Winter is almost here and my daily work schedule has been changing in response to the shorter days and much cooler temperatures. Like the squirrel that lives in the woodshed (pictured above gathering hawthorn berries), I have been very busy preparing for the coming cold months…
This time of year, the rising sun greets me just as I also am ‘rising’ each morning. I like to sit quietly, sipping my hot water and reflecting on the beauty that surrounds me and nourishes my spirit. Now that the leaves have fallen, I have a much better view of the sunrises and the lake.
The Autumn colors are completely done now. Not a single yellow leaf remains. The wild plants and grasses are brown, dry and brittle. Lucy and I still hike every morning and evening on the trails behind the cabin. Each morning the heavy frost crunches under my feet and I am getting excited about the coming snow (lots of snow, please!) and trading in my hiking boots for cross country skis…
The Autumn chores are slowly getting done. Last week my neighbor K came over and together we blew out my irrigation system (I have ‘underground’ water both at the greenhouse and all the way out to the Medicine Wheel garden). I also cleaned out the greenhouse and did more tidying in the veggie garden in preparation for spring.
By the way, I am finding that there are still many interesting things to discover and photograph around the garden. Here are some artichokes that I never got around to harvesting:
Finally, I took down the Autumn wreath of orange and yellow Chinese lanterns and replaced it with the red berry winter wreath. This week I plan on sweeping the roof, cleaning the eaves troughs, raking the remaining leaves in the front yard, bringing in the last of the outdoor furniture and building Lucy a dog house. Then I should be ready for winter…
When we bought the cabin last fall, we inherited this quaint little greenhouse. I love that it is made with recycled windows- a great repurposing project! Unfortunately, it had been neglected for many years and was currently being used to store junk. It needed a lot of work. The paint was almost completely worn off, the wood was rotting in places, ten of the window panes were cracked or missing altogether, there was broken glass all over the ground under the extra windows at the back of the greenhouse, and it had become home to a large colony of ants and a family of bats.
Here is a shot taken during the winter. I was told (by our realtor) that the tire is from a Model T Ford. Any collectors out there?
Of course I fell in love with the greenhouse immediately and couldn’t wait for spring to arrive when I could take on the enormous task of lovingly restoring it back to its original purpose: a vibrant place to grow things here in our short Alberta summers.
Inside, the soil was very dry and dusty and covered in bits of plastic sheeting that disintegrated into a million tiny pieces whenever you tried to pick it up. There were layers and layers of spider webs everywhere.
When spring finally arrived, H and I began by moving all of the junk out. I cleaned the interior thoroughly using a broom, a shop vac and buckets of soap and water. Just under the roof (not pictured here), there is a large rectangular reservoir made of tin. I believe it was used to hold water, which then flowed into a tank which directs the warm water into the irrigation hoses that are buried in the soil. This reservoir was one-quarter full of bat guano! I had to get up on a ladder, and wearing a mask and goggles scraped and swept up bucketfuls of bat poo. I also had to remove the birdhouse as it had an active wasp nest in it. I did this early in the morning while it was still cold and the wasps presumably sleeping. I wrapped the birdhouse in a pillowcase (in case they flew up and swarmed me), gently removed the nails holding it in place and put the birdhouse carefully on the ground some distance away, removing the pillowcase.
I replaced all cracked and missing windows with panes taken from the extra windows that were once leaning against the rear of the greenhouse. Then I taped all of the window glass with painter’s tape, inside and out, in preparation for painting. As you can imagine, the taping was very tedious with all of those individual window panes. (And I taped all of the windows THREE TIMES during this process!) We should have bought shares in the company before I started this project!
Next, I primed all of the wood, inside and out. I had to give it two generous coats as the first coat seemed to be completely absorbed into the old, dry wood.
Here is a look at the interior after priming…
Here is a view of the back of the greenhouse…
Next came two coats of exterior semi-gloss black paint. The roof still looks awful as it needs to be replaced but that will have to be a future project.
Once the paint was dry, I took off all of the painter’s tape and washed the widows thoroughly. Then I re-taped the windows in preparation for caulking. I caulked the interior windows with black caulking, peeling off the tape before it set. This makes the caulking job look ‘clean,’ leaving crisp straight lines. Once again, I cleaned the windows.
Here’s a corner view. You can see where I transplanted some peonies that were previously growing in the front yard. My neighbor C also gave me some rhubarb, which I planted on the left side here.
Here is a view of the front. There is still an old damaged door (not shown here). It has some bats living in it so any time I am working in the greenhouse I can hear them scratching away in there. I will be replacing this door with a secondhand French door from the Architectural Clearing House in Edmonton. Unless any of you have a glass door you want to sell me on the cheap? I’ll even cook you dinner out here as part of the deal…
Here is the back of the greenhouse. I hung up some old rusty tools that I found around the property. I also moved the concrete blocks to the future chicken coop location as they will come in handy as part of the foundation there.
Here are a few shots of the interior…
Inside, H and I removed half of the dry, dusty soil. We added and dug in manure, compost and potting soil and then topped this with three inches of mulch to hold the moisture in. This picture was taken in early June.
I planted four different kinds of tomatoes, six different kinds of chili peppers, six different kinds of basil, parsley, cilantro, summer savory, tarragon, chives and there is a nasturtium plant in there as well. (I also have lots of herbs growing in a separate herb and tea garden as well as in my veggie garden).
Here is a shot taken just today. Notice that the tomatoes are growing up a length of string for support. This is old baling twine that I found near the barn when we were cleaning the manure off of the concrete pad. A length of this twine is tied to a nail on a beam above, the lower end is loosely tied to the base of the tomato plant while it is still young. As the tomato grows you gently wind the string around the plant. Be sure to provide some slack so that the twine doesn’t become too tight.
This is still a work in progress. I still have the door and roof to replace and I would like to caulk the exterior windows. I plan on putting a flagstone path in the ground at the front door along with a few large red clay pots with some bright red flowers. I am also looking for a weathervane to install on the roof. I have planted a few vines at the two front corners of the greenhouse, which, I hope over time will grow up the corners and under the roof line. Next summer, I will install brackets for two hanging baskets for more bright red flowers (yes, I really like red).
All in all, this has been a very useful restoration project so far. Did I mention that the greenhouse already has power, water, shelves to store my terra cotta pots and a little potting table? As it has been a cool, wet spring and summer so far here in Alberta, my plants in the outdoor gardens are healthy but still small. Meanwhile, the plants in the greenhouse are thriving and gigantic in their warm, humid little home. One of my tomatoes is now even touching the ceiling, it has grown so high!
I hope you enjoyed seeing this restoration project take shape. I actually just painted the back wall and installed the rusty tools just this afternoon. We have had so much rain that finishing the painting kept getting postponed.
I’ll keep you posted on any further developments with the greenhouse. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing about your own gardens and restoration projects!