It’s still strange to me that my wife and I own this house and land that we live on. Partly because the concept of
"owning" land (stolen, at that) is weird, and partly because the housing market right now is completely insane. We’re just thawing out from our fourth winter at this old (mostly from the 1850s) home and back in 2017 the process of buying this place was difficult, but nothing compared to what is happening now.
However, real estate is a whole separate blog post, or several, probably best from someone other than me. Actually, it’s in the news a lot these days, not so much the Ithaca area real estate market, but the entire national scene. This post is about what we’ve done since we been here, which might not sound like a lot, but feels like a lot. Warning: lost of words and photos ahead, get comfy.
We sit on about 1.5 mostly level acres. Probably 3/4 of it was mowed/maintained grass but each year we let certain parts grow wild. It started at the end of our first year when I realized I was mowing huge amounts of area that look nice, but really weren’t really utilized for anything. It’s not like we needed a small soccer field. So we let those areas grow, which also meant that the lawnmower job was 30 minutes shorter. Less gas used and less money spent, more time to watch the grass grow, so to speak. Win/win. It looks even better now, with tall grass and various weeds and, unfortunately, some invasive stuff. But each year since then we’ve let more areas go natural, and now we probably only mow 1/2 of our total yard. Quaking aspens have come up in one spot, which will be beautiful…in another 20 years.
After our first winter we got 12 baby chicks. We spent a small fortune ($400) building them a coop that was large enough for an adult (me) to stand in. So, great, instead of spending $4 on eggs each week we…continued to spend $4 on eggs because it would be another 8 months before these Ameraucana hens would even lay an egg. So from a financial standpoint this was…a bad idea. But, making the coop was fun and it works! Three years later…we’ve lost half of the chickens, have had to build a 6’ tall fence to keep them in, and worry about them far more than we’d like (well, I do, at least).
In 2018 we had ground mounted solar installed. My wife actually wrote up a great blog post detailing that project but it’s a fixture on our land that I now associate with our chickens, as it provides them shade and safety. I just did a quick check of our solar output and last month 95% of our energy came from the sun, and from now until probably September, it will remain that way (with June/July hitting 150%).
The garden. We sectioned off a nice rectangle of yard to grow food! Again, building a fence was important here, and we did a pretty great job, as the only critters that really get to our crops are birds and bugs. The occasional mole, from some evidence, but they don’t seem too interested in what we’re growing. Allison is in charge of this whole operation and last year was a fun experiment in trying the three sisters method for corn, beans, and squash (the squash never came, though). The garden is an inexpensive treasure that runs on time with a dependency on weather. And if the crops are not so good, my daughter will happily carry them to the chickens, who are always grateful.
Before the pandemic hit we had plans to make a pergola/patio. It wasn’t necessary but we had the funds (it was under $1000, thankfully) to make it happen. We started in early April, tearing up grass and some neglected (on our part) landscaping. Then we dug holes for 4 posts, 6”x6” and 12’ tall! Poured concrete around the posts, let it set, put the crossbeams up (that was the hard part), threw down some gravel, smashed that down, put a layer of sand, then some 12”x12” patio tiles. Done. Fun, too, considering that this project involved one of us with a baby on a back. Allison started to grow some hardy kiwi to crawl up the posts and give us some shade, and fruit, someday.
Lastly, the trees. We had to take out a pear tree that was young and diseased, and then a plum tree that was also young and diseased. We’re lucky to have a very old and productive pear tree, but we wanted more trees. And there’s that joke again. When’s the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago. But we planted a few. A silver maple, a red maple. And a peach tree.
Having four seasons (sometimes three, since Spring takes every other year off) gives us time to really appreciate the yard in various capacities. Hot summer days has us wanting more trees for shade. Windy winter days has us also wanting trees to slow the wind and snow drifts. Basically, more trees. Here's a side-by-side of that silly iPad sketch from above (2017) with an update to show all the work we've put in:
Not included in this map/blog post is our fire pit 🔥 which has moved three times. What's next, a pond? For now, nothing. We're just going to enjoy things this year and see what happens.