Tag Archives: orchard

Miscellany {vegetables, blueberries, orchard, etc.}


So, after this marathon of posting, you all are just about caught up.  One last post to wrap up some odds and ends, and you’ll have a pretty solid picture of what’s been happening around here for the last couple of months.


Little baby peaches back in May!!

Back in April, I mentioned that we started to plant some fruit trees.  What with so much rain lately, they have really been flourishing, although I apparently haven’t taken a picture of the orchard as a whole.  We ended up with two pear trees, three peach trees, two plum trees, and five apple trees.  We have some peaches and a couple of plums growing, as well as just a couple of apples.


It’s a Wolf Creek apple tree… anyone else ever heard of it??

The orchard does back up against the woods, so some deer damage was not unexpected.  Still, it was sad that they came out and nommed off all the little apples!  That was several weeks ago.  Maybe it’s a good thing that only one apple is left, because it does seem to be weighing down the tree!

After that little incident, we tried to take precautions to protect the trees in the future.  We can’t really afford to fence in the entire orchard right now (although that’s the long-term plan – not only will it protect the trees, it will also give Waylon a place to play), so we strung fishing line around the perimeter of the orchard, 5-7 strands ranging from about a foot off the ground to about 7′.  Supposedly, because the deer can’t see it, running into it really spooks them.  I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that they haven’t molested our trees since.

001One must-have of every good homestead, as anyone knows, is a compost bin.  Using some of those handy pallets my brother got at work, Tom built me a very sturdy and happy little compost bin.  The divider in the middle is so you can add to one side, then the next year add to the second side while using the first side for dirt.  What with all the digging out of random stuff and weeding and mowing and pruning going on, there is plenty of stuff to add to the bin!

Both Tom and I have a strong desire to plant plenty of fruit, maybe because fruits are generally perennials, so planting them feels like you are planning not just for this summer, but for years to come.  We got a good start with the orchard, and this year we also made progress with planting a blueberry patch.  Next year, we’re hoping to plant raspberries and blackberries as well.


Here he is, busily tilling away.

Back in the day, before our time, where our flagpole is now used to be a swimming pool, so there is a round, flat area.  Inspired by that space, plus random pavers and other things lying about, Tom decided to make a compass blueberry garden, with the paths running N/S and E/W.  I already had two blueberry bushes, both of the Top Hat (a dwarf) variety (back before I knew about cross-pollination).  We’ve picked up a few bushes on clearance at Tractor Supply, and the rest at a local greenhouse.

I love blueberries, and we tried to get a variety of heights, types, and harvest times.  We still have one empty spot, and one bush that doesn’t look like it’s going to make it, so we’ll still have a few slots to fill in next year.


I’ve left the tags on until I have time to record which varieties are planted where.

Still, we plant nine or ten bushes this year, so that’s a pretty good start!


The Top Hat berries are on the small side and tend to be a bit more sour than some of the larger varieties. However, the flavor is still delicious – I rather like the tang!

My two Top Hats both produced plenty of berries this spring, and several of the other bushes have done so as well.  While we don’t really have enough to do much more than snack on them, it’s still always fun to actually get produce back!

When Tom started digging out the water garden, he realized that we had a lot of dirt that needed to go somewhere, and it was actually pretty decent dirt, so we didn’t just want to dump it down over the hill.


We started with dirt and then added the frame.

Originally, we were going to wait until next year to plant some vegetables, and Tom wanted to plant them the traditional style – directly into the ground.  However, it appears that the entire pad in front of the barn, with the exception of where the ground was leveled for the pool (now the blueberry garden) was once gravel, so if you dig any deeper than the sod, you’re suddenly contending with about 6″ of gravel.  It’s rather dreadful, and has made planting trees (like the aspen in the background of the blueberry garden picture) a real hassle.

So, all that to say, we decided that we were going to have to go with raised beds.  The fact that they are a bit more expensive out of the gate was an added incentive to wait until next year for veggies.

Except…  all that dirt we dug up for the water garden…!!!  So then it seemed like it only made sense to go ahead and box in a raised bed…  except then there wasn’t quite enough dirt so we had to get some…  and then we got a flat of vegetables on a great sale for $10 except that was a LOT of vegetables and they didn’t all fit in that one bed…  so we had to build a couple more… and…  well, we’re raising vegetables this year!


At this point, I realized I had way more vegetables than I had garden…

In the larger bed we have tomatoes and peppers.  I’m quite bad at vegetables and not super awesome at spacing them, plus our bed ended up being just a *bit* too wide (we’re going with about 18″ narrower when we build a couple more next year.


As of 27 June 2015 – about a month after planting!!

We’ve been living in a rainforest the last couple of weeks – seriously, almost 10″ of rain in two weeks – so everything is growing like madness.  

We have lots of baby tomatoes and peppers, so hopefully we actually get some veggies!!


This one has cucumbers and the other has green beans.

Tom’s brother gave us a couple of boxes with a bench between them that he had built but didn’t need any more.  We ended up taking the boxes and setting them up between where we park the cars and the blueberry garden.  You can see an empty box in the picture with the brand-new raised bed, and here it is with some stuff in it.

Like we did with the deeper containers in the side garden, we filled the bottom half or better with straw, and then dirt on top of that.  Even if we grow the tallest cucumbers in the world, their roots probably aren’t going to be 3′ deep.

Tom built a teepee on top of each one and then ran some heavy wire around the outside so the plants can grow up.


Pepper bed in the background behind the blueberries, then L to R – cucumbers, bush veggies, and tomatoes/peppers.

We also have some bush beans and bush cucumbers in a smaller raised bed, and another small bed of peppers (and yes, ALL OF THOSE VEGGIES were in ONE $10 flat!).  They are also flourishing, thanks to so much rain.

One other random project we’ve been working on is getting the upstairs of the barn back into usable space.  I don’t know if any of you have this tendency, but we seem to get an area cleaned and organized, then move onto another project, and then the original area becomes messy and confused, and then we go back and add more shelves or improvements to reclean and reorganize, and it just keeps cycling around.  For instance, the lower room, which looked beautiful this winter, is an absolute disaster right now – and Tom is in the process of building more shelves, so it will be the next big thing organized (again).


The wooden frame has small-gauge chicken wire stretched over it. The frame swings open so we can open the windows, or closed so it is protecting the windows from flying basketballs!

Anyway, the upstairs of the barn was pretty messy with various projects going on.  Tom worked hard cleaning it up over the weekend, and also building some protective cages around our brand-new windows!

I didn’t get a picture of the upstairs as a hole, but the space is back to being usable for playing basketball, pool, or darts again, which is pretty exciting.  The windows help a lot with ventilation.  While it will still be too hot to play up there on really hot days, it should  be perfect up there on more mild days.  In the future, we’re still hoping to install a couple of windows on the other side of the barn, as well as an exhaust fan.


Three coneflowers, two daisies, and one blanket flower… and I only actually bought one plant!!

One thing I’ve really been trying to do this spring is plant a lot of perennials.  I’m sincerely hoping that next spring will involve a lot less expense and labor.  I especially love coneflowers and daisies of all types.  They’re low maintenance, have long bloom seasons, and look lovely as cut flowers as well.

The fun thing about lots of different perennials is that you can get them for free from people who need to divide theirs.  Mom gave me a bunch of coneflowers and daisies (as well as some bee balm, lemon balm, and chives), and our neighbor gave me some coneflowers as well.  Everything that I’ve transplanted is taking off, and I am super happy that coneflowers are starting to bloom (the daisies are budding up now, too!).

So that about brings you up to date on all the craziness around the McCafferty homestead!  As you can see, it has been a seriously busy spring.  This morning (June 29) is a perfect day to be alive – cool, no humidity, moderately overcast, and the dirt is just right for pulling weeds, which is what I’ve been doing in between writing this post.

Life, my friends, is good.  Stay in touch.


SPRING!!! {no sense of restraint}


Yes, so, as soon as it started getting warm around here, Tom and I forgot every single well-meaning resolution we had made concerning the importance of pacing ourselves with landscaping/planting gardens.  WE LOVE GARDEN CENTERS and we’ve planted an orchard and are working diligently to make the side garden happy as well.  There are just so many awesome things we can do outside that we can hardly wait to get into them!!!

HOWEVER, before we get into all that, an update on the kitchen!  Because it’s really finished now, except for some bits of trim here and there.  Pop  installed our new stove hood and redid the wall behind the oven and fridge, so everything looks super happy!



So apparently I don’t have a good “before” picture of the fridge/oven wall (surprise, surprise), but you can see a bit of it here.  Basically, we had some ugly cabinets over the top of the fridge, plus a weird fake board thing above the cabinets that makes it look like it’s holding up the ceiling or doing something useful, except it’s not.

Behind the oven, which you can’t see from here, the wall was partially tiled with white squares, several of which were missing and/or had never been there to begin with.

The stove hood was stainless steel, old, ugly, and recirculated air (through a filter) rather than actually venting it out of the kitchen.  It also sounded like a jet engine when it was running.



Day One involved, of course, demolition.  When we got home from work, the cabinets, tile, hood, and weird board were all missing.  It immediately felt like the kitchen was taller!

In case you’ve forgotten, this house has ludicrously low ceilings.  It boggles my mind  how so much of the stuff we’ve replaced were things like low-hanging lights or stuff up against the ceiling – things that made the house feel even more cave-like.







By the end of Day Two, the paneling behind the refrigerator was up.  This is actually the same beadboard that we used on the backs of the cabinets and for the kickboard in front of the bar stools.  We thought about getting a sheet of regular paneling, which is what is on most of the walls, and then painting it the blue of the rest of the walls, but that all just seemed like a lot of hassle, especially when we already had the beadboard leftover!







Day Three was the big change – the new hood was in!!  Even though the fan wasn’t connected yet, the lights worked and Pop had started to install the stone.  It’s the same as we used for the backsplash for the kitchen sink, and has a lot of grays, so it matches our color scheme really nicely.  We wanted something that would contrast since we have two white appliances and a white hood and one sheet of white paneling all right together.








One of the reasons Tom chose this particular hood was  because it has two 40-watt bulbs.  80 extra watts of light in the kitchen really makes a big difference.  While we love having the kitchen in the center of the house, and while removing the walls has definitely lightened things up considerably, it can still be rather dim in there, especially on cloudy days.  I am very pro-lots-of-lights anyway.

This brought us to the end of the week.  On Saturday, Tom and I went to Cleveland to visit our new puppy – we’re getting a border collie in May!!  Super stoked!!

Along the way, we stopped at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  It was a very warm and pleasant day, and hiked about five miles to see Brandywine Falls.  (As an aside, you don’t have to hike five miles in order to see the falls…  they’re actually probably  200-yard walk from the parking lot. We just took a more scenic route.  :-D)




Much of the park follows the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal; the old tow path is now a hiking/biking trail.  There are a couple of museums and whatnot as well – it’s a park I think we’ll try to visit again sometime.

I did find myself thinking that I wouldn’t want to be there during mosquito season, though.






Brandwine Falls are pretty nifty, actually.  It’s hard to believe that you’re actually practically in Cleveland.



























When we got home, Pop was cleaning out the “other” side of the barn.  The left (main) side of the barn is the side I’ve posted pictures of before – concrete floor, and Tom’s work area.  The loft, which is slowly becoming a nifty rec room, is over the entire barn.  The Other Side is a long, narrow room that runs along the alley-side of the barn – basically, it’s only as wide as the doorway pictured.  This side has been full of random junk for many years.  Most of this stuff, including an old boat, actually belongs to Pop – the old owner of our house was letting him store stuff in there.

I’ve been really wanting chickens, though, and they’re going to go in the back of the barn.  We were thinking of waiting until next year for this project (let’s be honest, I think Tom was hoping that this project would be next year’s), but lo and behold, Pop was working like a man with a mission to get that thing cleaned out.  So that ended up being the rest of the weekend.



There’s actually quite a lot of space without the boat!

The chickens are going to go in the back (Val used to keep them there, too, as you can see on the door!).  We’ll cut a doorway to the outside, where Tom is building a chicken run, put in some windows, and frame in a wall to keep the chickens towards the rear of the building.

Mom is getting chickens, too, so she and I ordered them together from Mt. Healthy.  You can purchase just one pullet of each breed from there, which was exactly what we wanted – who wants all their chickens to look the same??  I ordered eight and am SO EXCITED.





While the guys were doing their thing, I was working on the side yard.  This is actually a middle-of-the-task picture.  When we moved in last year, this area was wall-to-wall shrubs.  We’ve cleaned out a lot of that, and are not down to a few hibiscus, a burning bush, and a hydrangea.

Last summer, we threw down a bunch of mulch, so I’ve actually been working on clearing that back out so we can plant a lot of stuff in here.  Some of the mulch will probably go back in this garden eventually, and the rest will get used for various other projects.

More on this side yard later…




Even though the kitchen didn’t look a lot different when we got home from work the next day –  just a bit more stone – the biggest difference was in the unseen…  the fan actually vents out through the roof now!

(I’m cooking meatloaf as we speak…  and no smell of gas!  And I can’t even hear the fan running!  SO MUCH WINNING!)







By Thursday, this project was in the bag!  Doesn’t the stone look amazing?!??!  I absolutely love it.  Of course, the ceiling still needs painted, and we’re going to run some trim between the stone and the wood, but overall the kitchen is now pretty well set, and I am a super happy camper!!!


So now we are up to this weekend, and a very busy weekend it has been!  Saturday was perfect weather in every way – topped out in the low 70’s, the sun was shining, a gentle breeze – just perfect.  We knew we wanted to be working out in it, so we hit up Lowe’s and Wilson’s Greenhouse in Newark first thing in the morning.

Back home, we set to work on the side garden yet again.  I continued to work on the mulch/weeding situation, while Tom began to work on setting a couple of small paths through the garden.

Even though this area is on the north side of our house, it’s actually in the sun most of the day.  So much of this garden will hopefully be herbs.  We’re also planning a small pond, and, where you can see the wooden platform in the next picture, a pump.  There’s an old cistern underneath the platform (actually, under about a third of the garden) that is probably there from the days when our barn sat where our house is.  At that time, the barn belonged to the huge brick house on the corner, and the roofs for both buildings drained into the cistern.

When the barn was moved, somehow someone ran the new downspouts from our house into that same cistern.  We’re planning to put in a hand pump and use the water for gardens and whatnot.















The side garden has a lot of ground ivy, aka Creeping Charlie.  I spent a great deal of time digging out the roots yesterday, but I’ve no doubt that much of it will still return.

There have been a lot of challenges surrounding this little area.  In the lefthand side of the picture you can see a couple of evergreen shrubs.  These shrubs were basically the entire garden last year, with some hibiscus thrown in for fun.  At some point in this garden’s lifetime, someone thought it would be a good idea to put down some burlap fabric and then mulch over it.  This would have been find, except that was probably ten years ago, and now there is about 3″ of soil over top of the burlap.  We pulled out yards of it last year, and I’m still digging it out this year.  Good times, good times.



Anyway.  So I really wanted a couple of narrow paths through the garden, both for practical use and aesthetic.  We didn’t have any spare brick laying around, but we did have these square pavers.  I think the previous owners must have gotten a good deal on these pavers, because they are all over the place.  As is, they are bit a larger than what I had in mind for the path (and they don’t do turns very well), but Tom was pretty confident that he could use a chisel and split them into individual bricks – and he did!





Ta-da!  Aren’t they perfect??  To just hold one it’s obvious that it’s not a “real” brick, as they’re someone chipped/irregular along the edges, but in the pathway, with dirt between them, they flow very well and I am super stoked!!!!

And no, to answer your question, we did not install this walkway the “right” way.  No sand, no leveling…  Tom just raked away the loose stuff and stuck them down in there, and then tamped dirt back in between them.  We will probably have to go back and do it a bit better at a later date, but for now they’re there enough that I can plant around them and keep things moving in this area.





















Gah, aren’t they perfect??  I love them!

Where the right-hand path ends is roughly where the little pond will someday end up, so it should tie in with whatever brick/stone ends up around that project.










Our other big project this weekend – installing an orchard!  We bought four trees yesterday and four more today, and we still have room for two more!!

We really wanted to get them planted as it started raining this afternoon and is supposed to keep raining through tomorrow evening, and it’s always nice to give them a good soaking right off the bat.

Tom did most of the heavy work for this project (surprise, surprise), but I’m good at things like holding trees steady while dirt gets shoveled around them.







With all this outdoor activity, I was kind of glad when the rain moved in so I could try to get it all caught up in my gardening journal.  I started this journal the first spring Tom and I were married (2011), which, incidentally, is the first spring I had my own gardens!  I keep the journal in a composition  book – they’re great for projects where you want to tape/glue things to the pages.  Because the pages are sewn together, you can really stuff the books full without them falling apart!

As you can see, I love to keep all the tags from all my plants and put them in the book.  This allows me to reference back to them so I can easily see which plants have died.  (Did I mention that I’m actually a terrible gardener??)


For me, the easiest way is to rough out where things are going, number where stuff is planted, and then number the tags in the book.

Even though I’m the daughter of an engineer, I’m not super good at drawing stuff, but Dad has always told me that any drawing can be considered correct as long as I note that it is “not to scale.”  😀

(Note: the flower tags on this page match numbers for the side garden sketch, not the sketch above, just in case you were trying to put them together!)

Anyway, on the map, numbers 1-10 are our fruit trees (well, 7 and 10 are still just fruit tree slots).  12-17 are still in the planning stages, but will probably be various fruit shrubs (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries), and hopefully some hazelnut bushes.  17 will probably be vegetable gardens (although I think we’re legit holding off on veggies until next year… so labor-intensive!), and I think we’re going to try to plant English walnuts behind the chicken yard (13, top of the page).



For now, we’ve planted two pears, two plums, three apples, and one (self-pollinating) peach.  We’ll probably get one more peach and one more apple, but who knows??

We will see what takes…  Lowe’s has a one-year guarantee, and you can bet that this girl is saving her receipts!








We got a few more things planted in the side garden before the rain as well, including this Japanese maple.  Tom really loves these (actually, he bought two, different varieties), so he was really excited about getting them into the landscape.

So that’s the big update – it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and we still have plenty in our heads we’re trying to get done!  I’ll try to keep everyone posted…