Some days, I get more work done in the house and yard than usual. I've been busy the past couple of days...
1. The door to the garden enclosure is on a slope, so it is set above the highest ground (to allow it to open). Unfortunately (in theory), that would allow Evil Squirrels to get under it. The gap is 2" at one end. So I need a barrier that doesn't block the door but blocks the gap. I decided on a way.
The door opens outwards, so a small barrier at ground level inside the door will work. But I also need to get a wheelbarrow in there so it has to be removable. And it is in ground contact, so it can't be wood that rots. Well, I have leftover pieces of the composite decking and THAT won't rot. So if I made some holder for the composite piece that could allow it to be lifted out easily, that would be perfect.
Being a woodworker of minor skill, I thought to cut a dado slot in 2 pieces of pressure treated 2"x4" wood 6" long (the width of the composite decking piece). I've done router work before and am usually successful at it. But I learned that router small pieces of wood does NOT work well. Too late, I recalled advice from a woodworker magazine that said to do the routing first on long pieces and then cut the wood to size.
Hindsight (or, in this case, hind-memory) is 20/20.
It was a disaster. Trying of router 6' pieces of wood just chewed them up badly (Don't worry, my fingers were never in danger. I may be only moderately-skilled, but I am EVER so cautious!). But that attempt failed utterly.
So I decided to BUILD a slot. A little table saw work, and I had 1"x1"strips of wood to glue to a 3" wide base |__| and the inside was the slot I needed. When the glue dried I added screws for permanence. The slot for the composite deck board is 3/16" wider than the board for easy removal. It doesn't matter if the board is a bit loose; an Evil Squirrel can't lift it.
2. The 3 areas I surrounded by edging last Fall are not working out as intended. The closest one was planted with tulips and hyacinths in wire cages to protect them from the Voracious Voles and Evil Squirrels (who consider them delicacies), and daffodils (which are toxic and unpalatable to both). But the hyacinths never came up (I suspect the 1/2" wire mesh was too small for the stems) and there weren't enough daffodils to cover the intended area.
So I have to dig up the hyacinth cages and try again this Fall, and add more daffodils. The tulips did nicely and I expect them to be around for many year. I have some tulips in places where voles and squirrels do not think to dig, and they have been blooming for 20 years.
But in the meantime, weeds are growing. Most are easy enough to pull up by the roots, but there is a clumping grass with deep roots and pulling on them just takes off the tops so they grow back. So for 2 days, I've spent an hour each day digging under the roots and prying them up. I have some impressive piles... Those will be composted after they spend a week in sealed plastic bags set in the full sun until they are as thoroughly dead as the Wicked Witch Of The East in Oz ("not only merely dead, really, most sincerely dead.”).
The poaching shovel really works well for that (a really narrow shovel). I got almost all of those dug up! The remaining weeds are kinds that can be cut off just below ground with my scuffle hoe.
3. The Evil Squirrel live cage has been set again. I didn't mind the 2 new squirrels around the birdfeeder (they can't get past the barrel baffle and the round disc baffle above it), but I saw one climbing on the garden enclosure trying to find a way in, and THAT one has got to go. I'll get it; squirrels are suckers for peanut butter.
4. The 2d edged circle is not planted. I meant to move a plant called Lymachia to there, but it is too invasive, so I am killing all of it . I thought it could be controlled in a circle I could mow around, but I've found them growing in 3 spots around the yard (1 spot 150' away from the patch) so they have to go. I'll just keep cutting them down to ground level with my hedge trimmer until the roots are exhausted. Meanwwhile, I will use the rototiller to turn over the soil in the circle and cover it in newspaper (the newspaper uses harmless soy ink). That should kill off all weeds by Fall. I think I will move the numerous Black-Eyed Susan volunteer plants from around the flowerbeds there.
5. The 3rd edging area was planted with wildflower seeds last Fall, but it is mostly weeds. I'm not sure what to do there. On the one hand, there ARE wildflowers growing, and I want those. On the other hand, 90% of the plants growing there are weeds. I might try selective weeding, but not knowing what the good plants are (that might bloom next year) I might just undo some good plants. But there are some plants I KNOW are weeds, so I think I will pull them and see what happens.
6. I'm preparing to paint the rebuilt bathroom. Have pale mossy green paint, dropclothes, rollers, etc. Have TSP (trisodium phosphate to clean the 30 year old walls, gloves for protection, sponges, etc. Ive painted every place I've ever been in (many apartments), so I know the routine.. It taking all the stuff off the walls that slows me. That mirror has sharp edges! I want to surround it with a wood frame. And I have the frames. But they are dark wood and the wood in the bathroom (towel bar, TP holder, toothbrush holder, light switch cover etc are light wood. I need to see if I can stain those dark (danish walnut). And I need to score the mirror smaller by 3" to account for the wood frame size.
7. Weeded the old flowerbeds for an hour until I came across poison ivy plants creeping in. I used to be immune to poison ivy, but 10 years ago developed a terrible rash from it. It is one of those things that don't bother you until they do. I'll need to wear heavy duty rubber gloves, have a bucket of bleach nearby and dip my trowel and gloves into it regularly. And hope I don't forget and wipe my brow.
8. Pulled up a dozen or so thorny thistles. I wore heavy leather gloves that beat the torns, so it went well. The thistles don't have deep roots, so they come up easily. But they have enough stored food to mature their seeds after being pulled up (like dandelions) so they will go in the plastic bags with the poison ivy.
9. A lot of my trees have the habit of sending out new branches from the trunks anywhere they can get sunlight. So they drop down to walking level. Since I get tired of pushing branches out of my way while I mow the lawn, I went after them yesterday. I bought a pole pruner (a limb saw on a 10' pole) a couple years ago and this is the first time I used it. It worked great! A few cuts under the branch then more cuts on the top. The undercuts prevent the falling branch from peeling off a foot of bark on the tree trunk (allowing diseases to start). Hard on the arms though. I may try my electric chain saw next time.
10. Cleaned the riding mower deck completely. The top collects dry grass clippings, the underside packs wet grass clippings on the undersurface like paper mache! It took some real scraping. Actually, I couldn't figure out how to get to the underside safely. But I have these 2"x8"x8' boards with metal ends that you can clamp to trailers and other flat surfaces. So I placed the boards on a 2' high landscaping box and drove the mower up on it.
After detaching the spark plug wires for safety, I was able to crawl under and scrape the deck clean of packed dead grass clippings. Took an hour though. That mower blade really stays in the way.
11. I left the mower on the boards last night. It occurred to me that I should sharpen the blades. But I had enough old grass on my face and it was time to feed the cats. So the blade sharpening is for tomorrow...
12. The edged circles are too small for using my large roto-tiller. But there are smaller electric versions. The advertised gas one is called a Mantis. But I found one with better ratings (Earthwise, with a 4.5 of 5 rating) and ordered it from Amazon. It should be perfect for the smaller spaces and I've always wanted one like that.
13. Next project is to whack down the underbrush in the far back yard. It has gotten amazingly overgrown since just removing a few trees back there 2 years ago. I have a 4-stroke gas powered Stihl whacker with a metal blade but I've resisted using it because I hate the noise (I'm really a very quiet person), and it seems vaguely dangerous, but it is time to bring it out! Serious work needs serious tools. I'll be careful with it.