My Relationship With Troy

As we drove around in the GMC last night, Andy mentioned that I never write about the equipment we have. Equipment that has a huge part in how we live around here. Though he was specifically referring to our tractors, I realized today while ninja kicking the tiller, that our equipment is more than just our tractors. Though I promise dear, I will write about our tractors. Of which I only have a love relationship with.

On the other hand, and today’s topic, my relationship with Troy has built into a love/hate relationship. I need him, he needs us. We’re codependent. Without him, my garden soil hates me. Without us, he sits unused in the barn. Equipment likes to be used. They don’t like to sit around. Equipment that sits around groans, and moans and needs encouragement to work properly again. Kind of like some people.

Troy, is our garden tiller. Troy Bilt that is.

Troy has been in our family since before I was born. It’s odd to think my Dad was using him at about the same age as me, except he already had two kids and I wasn’t even a blip on the radar ultrasound yet. We received him “to hold onto for a while” (in Dad speak – to have) from my Uncle who somehow acquired him for a number of years.  He wasn’t working right, but all he needed was some ALC. Andy Loving Care. With a little cleanup and a new part, Troy was once again part of our working family.

Sometimes I feel like Troy is saying “now you listen hear youngin’, I was around while you were still a separate egg and sperm”. And I’m like “shut your yap Troy and get tilling”. Correction. My mother informed me of a few mistakes in the story as I always knew it. Troy was my uncles, which explains why Mick had him. I was a year old, and the engine blew due to an oil mishap – and then dad to pay $200 to replace it. So as it turns out, if this is true, Troy has been a pain in the ass from day one. A pain in the ass who has helped out family out for two generations.

Truth be told, this year was the first year I used Troy all by myself. In the past, Andy has always done it. Andy is used to manhandling equipment. Equipment is used to manhandling me. So this year while Andy worked on the barn, and I had pent up energy I needed to get out, and our garden soil was dry—I took Troy for a ride. Or the other way around. I’m still debating the outcome.

I quickly realized how hard this was going to be. First off I could barely move Troy. This lady right here has biceps that could win a gun show. A full blown, water gun show. Second, Troy needed air in his tires and to be dusted off. So, in true fashion I grabbed the air hose, took the boys nailer off of it and grabbed the necessary attachment—the air blower thing, and the air tire pumping thing. Very technical.

After a quick rundown of the controls with Andy, I was off. To get the dogs in the field. Who were rolling in unsavory items.

Then after securing the trouble makers in house, and putting ear protectors on, it was time for Troy. It was a rough start. I was pushing down to much. Troy was bogging down. He was trying to tell me to give him more throttle. So was my husband actually. But all I did was stall him. Then, something happened which is never a good thing but somehow always works out.

I got stubborn. I dug my heels in the dirt, literally. I was going to win this thing whether Troy liked it or not. I was not going to give up. So I manhandled him around that garden and eventually we got in a groove. Oh, he certainly gave me a run for my money. When it came time to turn him (in which the tillers are still running so you have to have them lifted or they will ruin your grass) I had to rear his ass end up and push him around with my shoulder. At one point my foot must have snagged the garden rope we removed without realizing it, because when I set Troy down for the next pass, this happened.

Thankfully, after fully turning Troy off (and boy, was I turned off too at this point. Or more like pissed off, one of the two) it was rather easy to unwind. Whew.

I have not told Andy this happened yet. I’m going to give him a grand old blog surprise. The thing is, he won’t be surprised. I told you, equipment generally owns me in every aspect. Except backhoe’s. We’ll get into that when I discuss the tractor.

I finally got Troy going again and we were turning to make another pass.

At this point someone left the basement door open and the dogs ran out. I had ear protectors on. I didn’t hear them, but thankfully I saw them, and Rosie was running right at me and I had this tiller lifted in the air mid-turn. The blades were going and I could not get the friggen blades to stop and it to stop moving. Then, out a moment of sheer panic and anger, I screamed at the dogs to stop, which for once they did and I ninja kicked the lever while holding Troy’s ass end up in the air, with the other foot planted. Troy immediately stopped, Rosie came over happy, I put Troy down, and I walked the dogs back in the house.

And shut that door. Tight.

To say it was a “close call” would be awfully dramatic. I saw the dogs coming out and they stopped when I yelled. But I was pissed off that the lever wouldn’t work. I was pissed off when the “what if” went through my head. So I kicked him.

Right after this Troy lightened up a little, and so did I. I realized if I just let him do the work, and I kept him in line, we would be okay. Our hate sort of went away, and we decided to stop fighting each other. A few passes when by with beautiful ease. Then on cue with two rows left Troy sputtered. Troy coughed. Troy choked. Troy, dammit, ran out of gas. So off I went to the garage to get the gas can and fill him back up.

At the end of a long 45 minutes or so we were done. My garden went from this.

To this.

Essentially it went from dry and cracked to a beautiful rich brown color and soft to the touch, which is hard to tell since I had to use my point and shoot today.

Troy and I made it through, and I think we’ll be okay from here on out. Especially if we don’t have to converse until next summer.

I should probably mention we have a small garden. Small to me at least. If we had a few acres of our own I’m almost positive the garden would be a full acre, but since we don’t, it’s little. It grows enough food for our family so we have a reduced grocery bill almost all summer, and it’s perfect. That said, ff we ever expand our garden we’re using the farmers tractor mounted tiller. Troy can go climb a mountain.

And I will not be behind him helping.

Now off to go pick up the soil to prep it for planting. Thankfully this required the two arms God gave me and no gasoline.

xo,

Heather

The {Untimely} Secret Orchard – Part II

I woke up yesterday to 0.7 degree weather, which promptly dropped to 0.0. This morning I woke up to snow and a sore throat. I’m happy to say January is finally here. I was a little concerned whether it would show up, considering January 1st was almost 60 degrees. We don’t do 60 degrees in January here in Maine, it throws our entire internal clock off. While I was suppose to be hibernating and crocheting by the wood stove, I was outside raking the leaves surrounding the blueberry bushes and feeling like I should be planting my garden soon. It was entirely awkward and while my brain knew what time of year it was, my body had an innate reaction to the seasonal warmth. So while I sat here eating sorbet and feeling content that all was right with winter again, I started organizing a file of miscellaneous photos I took within the last month.

I was confused why I had photos of our planted orchard, since it was clearly from the fall. Then I remembered I took these photos on January 1st after Andy told me I needed to update you guys on how we planted our orchard I wrote about here and here. It’s amazing how different it looks. Maybe it doesn’t look too different to you guys, but in person it’s way different. It’s still not complete. I want to plant about 4-7 more trees for an even 9 to 12. We currently have 5 planted in this area (which we lovingly call The Orchard even though it’s the smallest orchard in history).

As a reminder, it actually looks like this layout wise. A really out of scale ghetto layout.

We also have these three we planted a few years back. From right to left it goes plum, cherry, pear. I think they are all dwarfs. The plum and cherry are supposedly self-pollinating but after reading up some more we’ll need to get two more of them for better fruit to grow. The pear will never grow without another pear, which is why our orchard now has a few more pear trees.

As far as the orchard area goes, each tree was about $20.00. I was admittedly hesitant at first thinking we were only going to find crap, since we paid close to $40.00 per tree for the three above. As it turned out they were very healthy looking trees. I was impressed. So, now we have the following in our yard which includes the orchard and the three trees above.

  • 3 pear trees : one bartlett dwarf, two keiffer semi-dwarfs
  • 1 cherry tree : black sweet cherry tree
  • 1 plum tree : santa rosa
  • 3 apple trees : one yellow delicious semi-dwarf, one red delicious semi-dwarf, one liberty semi-dwarf
  • 10 blueberry plants: two blueray, two earliblue, two brigatta, two bluecrop, two bluegold

That’s where we are now with the whole process, since most of it has a snow or ice cover right now. After writing this and looking at my other two orchard blog posts I just realized I never even showed you the actual planted blueberries. Son of a bee sting.

We’ll be getting some more trees and fruit plans in the spring. I promise to update you before 2018.

Much Love,

Heather

 Update: Andy has informed me that a good portion of the wood we sawed, in this recent post, actually came from the orchard when he first started it here. He thought I knew but nope, totally in the dark on it. I apparently missed him skidding them across our lawn and out to the hayfield. I was probably too engrossed in eating pie.

 

 

Re{tain} Yourself

Long post alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

When most people take vacations, they take them to go somewhere in relax. When Andy takes vacations, he takes them to work and get projects done around the house. At the end of it, he has to go back to work to relax.

One time, in 2009 long before this blog, he took a week off to build a new leach field for the septic system, and replace the tank. He’s been asking me to do some retro posts, so here’s a glimpse. He built a new septic field with just him and our tractor, and we had a new tank installed. I won’t subject you to an explanation or photos of the old septic system, which was sub par.

A few notes. Yes, we have septic. Our water comes from a well (but not through a hand cranked bucket) and we use propane instead of natural gas. I love it all. Okay, truth be told, I don’t love the septic. I’m indifferent about it and don’t think about it, but I sure am thankful we have it.

Andy’s latest work-cation was the three days before Thanksgiving, building a retaining wall. Here’s what I {think} I know. It retains dirt, and looks nicer than before. I know it has something to with supporting the foundation to the new addition we built. To be honest, I’ve been putting off writing this for a few weeks because for starters, I wasn’t here. Second, my construction terminology is limited. This frustrates me, because I wish I could explain to you exactly what happened. I told Andy this and he said, “what does it mean to the house?”. He really feels like this blog should always be my perspective, and not his. I was confused, I said “what do you mean?” He said, “forget the technical – what does this mean to the house.” I don’t know technically how he built the retaining wall and I’m not quite sure what it means to the house. I’m going to try and explain this though.

Update: after reading the original post, Andy reminded me we have a “before” shot of the back of the house from before we started the foundation for the addition. So without further ado – the before.

First Andy showed me the materials we bought. I loved the rough face on them.

I score a technical point for knowing that they go together with these white things, and are filled with crushed stone.

First, Andy measured out the steps to get from the deck to the basement door. No more rolling ankles down hills.

I got to yank out a wire we found that had to do with the old above ground-but-sunk-in-three-feet pool that used to be here. I got to yank it out with the tractor. It. was. fun.

Once that was done, Andy started digging out the “wall” where the..uh…retaining wall blocks (technical enough?) go.

As he did that I promptly got distracted and found a few trinkets in the dirt. We’re always finding things around here in the dirt. I think the lesson here is don’t ignore road blocks.

Then Andy did some more of this.

While Nikon and I did this. Oh those sweet soulful, trouble making, razzamatazzing brown eyes (eye).

After that it was back to work for me, and I put Andy on point-and-shoot-don’t-touch-my-nikon duty. This is what we got.

Random overnight snowstorm hinders progress. Unless you’re Andy, then the snow melts fast under the speed of your handiness. I think he’s secretly the Chuck Norris of construction.

Primrose supervised him almost the entire time. Just to make sure he knew what he was doing, and that no snacks were dropped. He texted me an almost identical photo while at work. I wanted to come home immediately to witness the cute.

She checks out the unfinished stairs.

Approval!

The mud happened the Friday after Thanksgiving and my, normally not caring, self demanded all boots be taken off before entering any upstairs area of the house. Paws were not allowed in the yard that day near the mud. There may have been an expletive out of my mouth when I saw thick mud boot prints in the kitchen. I live with two boys – and it wasn’t my husband.

This was the last photo Andy took, so on a nice sunny day I’ll get out there and get one of it with my Nikon again, since this is a little jobsite looking still. It is still a retaining wall so don’t expect a whole lot. It’s one that practically broke my husbands back and neck, and one I love him dearly for. Houses really do mean so much more, and so do husbands, when you know how much hard work has been put in.

So even though I don’t know what the retaining wall literally means to the house, I do know this.

I know what Andy’s hard work means to his house. It means we are continually getting a nicer home, at the expense of his personal time and his body; and even at 28 it’s becoming apparent the toll it’s taking on his body. It means I am always assured a roof over my head, and food on my table. It means I become a better person, and work harder and more intense by his example. It means our dogs have yummy food, and boundaries that I have trouble enforcing but he makes me realize are essential. So I’m not sure what this retaining wall means to our house besides structural things, but it seems to kind of represent him. He holds out the unstable things of everyday life, especially in this economy. He leaves a clear path for anything that rains on us to drain away from us as a family. For that I am forever grateful. I’m also grateful what you see is not what I see when looking at the same photo. It’s already fully landscaped up in my noggin.

Much love,

Heather

Blueberries & Face Shields

A few nights ago, while Mr. A was stacking wood at the back of our little (soon to be) orchard, our neighbor came over and let us know of some really good looking trees and bushes up at Lowe’s. Normally we try to buy all of our greenery from our local garden house but unfortunately the trees are expensive, and they looked rather sad. We have three other trees from there, but this year it just wasn’t looking good.

So this morning we took a trip up to Lowe’s to see what they had. Our neighbor was totally right. There were beautiful high-bush blueberries for $7.95 each, and fruit trees for $19.95 each. Since we currently only have one pear tree we decided to get two more. One pear tree is cute, but it will never fruit. We decided to get a different variety in the semi-dwarf category to help cross-pollinate our little dwarf bartlett (or bosc, I can’t remember). We also stocked up one 10 blueberry bushes. Yep, 10 of them in 5 different varieties. That’s a lot of blueberries to pick next year. Bring it on.

After looking at the layout of the orchard, Mr. A and I decided lining them next to the rock wall would be a great place for them both for layout reasons and it’s a great soil for berries.

The very first thing we had to do though was weed wack around the actual rock wall. This may be the first time ever that I was doing the work, and Mr. A took photos. I would like to use the photo below to demonstrate why I do not write a fashion blog. Note the Worx boots, Carhartt overalls (that are boys, not mens, boys), and a camo Cabelas sweatshirt with a pink lined hood. Oh right, and Mr. A’s chainsaw full face shield. When I asked for eye protection this is what I got. It worked, I flung a rock right into it and it banged right off.

Notice Winnie’s awesome gate she has going on? Look right under her lifted paw – prickle weed. She’s hit one of those one too many times and knows better than to step on them now. Note to self: go dig that up.

Once the wall was weeded and cleared we thought about layout. I tried one layout staggering the blueberries, but Mr. A wasn’t on board. He wasn’t going to be able to mow around them easily and it would cause a lot of maintenance issues. He wanted them next to the rock wall, but I wanted to be able to walk behind them. We compromised on setting them two ( size 8 ) steps away from the rock wall, which will give me plenty of room to walk around them.

We removed the two end bushes (already removed in the above photo) to help avoid winter damage to them. The forefront of this photo includes where snow is plowed in the winter, so it was important to keep it clear. We simply moved them to the front side of the rock wall, next to our hollow tree and seating area.

This will look awesome when those fill in and grow wider. Winnie has informed us she plans on laying there until the berries are ready so she can snack attack them off of the bush.

In case you’re curious how I’ll ever remember what blueberry varieties are where, I have an orchard layout I keep. It’s very precise, professional and to scale.

The pear trees are going next to the apple trees by the way, but the layout hasn’t been decided yet, so it hasn’t made it onto my master plan yet. That will be another post for another day.

Here’s to blueberry pancakes. And Jam. And butter. And compote.

I had to say compote. I always hear it on the Food Network. I have no idea how to make compote.

I should probably go tell Winnie those berries won’t be ready for a while.

Happy Fall Weather & Blueberry Overdose,

Heather