Preamble: 2015 was a busy year. I didn’t write much here—being busy and all—but I swear: we worked on the house. In fact, when I started to write this “2015 year-end review,” I quickly realized that 1) I had way too much ground to cover, and 2) nobody would ever want to read it all in one sitting. And so I divided the year-end review into multiple parts—enjoy! [Click here for Part I, “planting adventures.”]
When we weren’t planting trees, we were juggling half a dozen other projects outside. Battling wasps nests and fallen leaves and fallen tree branches and bits of old landscaping fabric that make their way to the surface every time it rains—all boring. (Unless you want to read about our leaf corralling methods?!) Let’s talk about some of the more interesting projects.
We’re making a trail! It meanders through our property, makes gentle turns and passes alongside the biggest and best trees, and even has a lookout point. We love to walk it. Broccoli (our dog) LOVES to run it. At this point we have a complete loop and we’ve started work on another segment. Making a trail takes work (surprise, surprise) but it’s also a lot of fun for us. We clear brush, uproot saplings, clip branches, and cut sections through large fallen trees. We use an electric leaf blower to clear the fallen leaves and debris from the trail. Then we walk it over and over, to give the ground that solid “trail-like” feel underfoot.
We tried to grow ground cover on the trail—the deer made quick work of everything that grew. We figured that if the deer stuck to the trail they’d stay away from our house and our baby fruit trees, and also help us in packing down the trail. The photos above are taken from the same spot, pre-deer and post-deer. We’ve talked about trying to make a grass trail work (creeping red fescue, our grass of choice, grows well in the shade and has done alright on the trail)—or adding wood chips. I want to plant ferns, and Jamie’s intent on growing bioluminescent mushrooms (the kind that glow in the dark). Our trail is going to be badass.
This summer we got serious about managing the poison ivy. Last summer we took care of some vines along the driveway (which I covered in this post) but there were still many, many more to contend with in the real woods behind the house. We finally bit the bullet and headed out one day to murder the ivy and accept the inevitable, itchy consequences. (A poison ivy plant will release urushiol into the air anytime it’s disturbed—you don’t need to physically touch it to get a rash. So basically, we were screwed.) That day we killed more than THREE DOZEN poison ivy vines—many of them humongous (see below, left, for size reference). Jamie would cut out a section of the vine with a chain saw, and I’d dab the cut ends with concentrated plant killer. We both got rashes, naturally, but not too badly.
We missed some vines (5 acres is a lot of ground to cover), and we’ll have to monitor the cut vines for regrowth, so we get to repeat this fun little exercise again in the spring—yay! Speaking of nuisance plants, we’re also still working to fight off the Japanese Stiltgrass, a non-native, very invasive grass that is a big problem around here.
And speaking of repeating fun exercises, I am still staining the house exterior. I never finished last fall—and I didn’t finish this spring, summer, or fall (again) either. There are only four more walls that need their second coats… I have a good feeling that it’s going to happen this spring. (It has to, really.)
On the culinary adventure front: In September we harvested something like 50 pounds of paw paw fruits. The paw paw grows wild here, and it produces the largest edible fruit native to North America. We peeled them and cooked them with water until we had a thick sludge. We strained the sludge to remove the seeds and ended up with 4 gallons of pulpy paw paw liquid. To this we added wine yeast and…you can see where this is going. When we tried the “wine” a number of months ago, after it had been fermenting for only a month or two, it tasted like straight up rubbing alcohol. They say fruit wines need to age for at least six months, so we’ll see…
There have also been plant identification walks, and morel hunts, and continued attempts to grow mushroom—Bear’s Head, Shiitake, Oyster—no luck yet, but fingers crossed!