Pruning apple trees on the homestead

Apple tree pruning on the Palouse

It’s December and winter has set in on the Palouse. Time to prune the apple trees. I didn’t prune them last year, so there will be a bit more to do this year. My secret weapon is a reciprocating saw with a pruning blade.

Reciprocating saw and blades for pruning

I use a corded saw but a cordless one would be better for this job, maybe I’ll get one at some point. It takes about 3 hours over two days to do one tree. I am absolutely not a pruning expert and I know I over-prune, but my goal is to get it done. There is always something to do, even on a small acreage. But the sun is out and the air is crisp.

One down, three to go
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2017 garden review

sunrise, gardening, Palouse
Sunrise on the Palouse
Lessons from 2016

Garlic, zucchini squash, potatoes, and basil were big winners in 2016. The big losers were tomatoes and cucumbers. The tomatoes just dropped dead in front of my eyes due to mice/pocket gophers eating the roots. I did not plant enough cucumber seeds to account for losses. Green beans and snap peas were OK but I lost too many to birds or rodents. Asparagus were OK but I am waiting for my patch to expand. Strawberries were Ok but with too many losses due to mice. Vermin are the biggest problem for the inthewheat garden. I definitely need to pay more attention to controlling them. Based on the tomato roots getting eaten, I decided to plant tomatoes in a garbage can for 2017. Continue reading “2017 garden review”

Getting ready for winter on the homestead

palouse snow
This year our first snow came on Oct 13th
Four seasons on the Palouse

In Eastern Washington we have all four seasons with a real winter. Yet the Pacific Ocean still has a moderating effect, and it is milder than East of the Rockies. Each season has it’s activities. In early Spring it’s time to rototill the garden and get the tomatoes and other vegetables started in the basement. Spraying for weeds is best done in April. In early summer the garden gets going and weeding is a big chore. In mid-summer we arrange to have hay delivered for the horse. It gets hot and activities like mountain biking are best done before 9am. Finally the heat breaks and this year as October starts, its time to get ready for Winter. Continue reading “Getting ready for winter on the homestead”

Ten tips for buying a house in the country

Buying a house in the country
Which country property is right for you?
Why even buy a house?

On the path to financial independence buying a house can have a huge impact, both positive and negative. There are major advantages to renting, and some bloggers advocate renting forever. But renting has its downsides. Being in a rental means you may not be able to modify your property to your liking. It also means that improving the property benefits someone else financially. Finally there is a major lack of control; if the owner decides to sell the property when the lease is up, you are now looking for a new place.

Tip 1. Avoiding societal programming when buying a house

There are a lot of ads that promote the idea that ‘owning your own home’ is a major life achievement. But let’s analyze this for a minute. First, why does the real estate industry use the word home instead of house? Are you buying a home or a house? If you buy a house and you put down 1%, do you really ‘own a home’? You have a mortgage and the rights to live in the house. If the house increases in value you will reap the rewards. But if the market is flat or it decreases in value you also suffer the consequences. If you buy the house outright with cash, clearly you are a ‘house-owner’. That’s it, you either own a house or you don’t. Make sure the emotion of a ‘home’ is distinct from a house.

Tip 2. Run the numbers

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Country living: Two tractors are better than one

My first John Deere tractor

When we bought the homestead we negotiated a 1969 John Deere 1020 tractor in the deal. It’s big, weighs a lot, and has a powerful bucket. When we bought it I didn’t even know if it was diesel or gas and hadn’t even ran it, just trusted the sellers that it ran and the PTO (power take off) was live. After we moved in it took awhile for me to get to evaluating it. It fired up as advertised, and the hydraulics and PTO worked, but it needed some work. The hydraulics were leaking from below the levers and the muffler needed to be patched and better attached to the exhaust manifold. Rather than buy a new muffler I just patched it with some Permatex 80333 Muffler and Tailpipe Putty. For the hydraulics, I removed the parts that were leaking and took it to my local NAPA dealer. We live in farm country and they have an extensive selection of hydraulic parts. I got the pieces I needed (after 2 trips) and got it repaired. I changed the oil and filter, cleaned the air filter, and made sure the hydraulic oil was at the right level.

How to approach mowing 8 acres?

Continue reading “Country living: Two tractors are better than one”