Thursday, January 15, 2015

Plans are nothing....

Ohh, how I just love to make plans!

They're always perfect and don't cost a single penny! And what better things to do on a grey day with plus temperatures, a strong southeastern wind blowing about, water saturated snow and an uncooperative physical disposition.
The days are lengthening by 4 to 5 minutes day, yet there are still a few months more to go until spring and the soil being workable. In the meantime I read a lot, as usual, on the subject (and many others). Growing plants and having a garden in this climate requires some extra attention and knowledge. Eventually introducing domesticated animals into that garden even more so. In the meantime I am also reading into forest gardening and permaculture. Both are quite new to me and if I understand correctly have many benefits, similarities and can be used simultaneously....

There are several areas I/we want to expand, grow or change. We must, since we practically did not make any progress at all. Not in the garden, not in jobs, not in finances. We sort of remained.....
In this post I'll focus on the garden-bit.

The first one will most definitely be our vegetable garden.
Right now it is a piece of land, roughly 20x20 meters, that is home to all sorts of plants, yet none too useful to us, other than their esthetical value. I love lupines and geraniums.... There are several species of grass and meadow plants and a large patch that has become overgrown with raspberries, both yellow and red. Haven't decided what to do with those yet, since there are more patches with wild raspberry in the garden. Some sloes are in there too.
This piece has to be cultivated again, as it allegedly once was at least 5-6 years ago and there our vegetables beds will need to find a place. Smack in the middle there stands a lone aspen-tree and I am thinking about keeping that one, just as an eyecatcher. There are at least a dozen more on the border between the neighbour and us, but I like some height in the "design". But that is about the only thing that is sort of fixed. No idea about the final layout... Square beds are easy to work with, but I do not like them from an esthetical point of view. Using round forms may cost too much useable space...
As you can tell it isn't that much room for growing crops, but there will be no potatoes for one. I have my source for those and we do not eat them that often anyway. Furthermore do I want to blend edible and decorational/otherwise useful plants in the planned flowerbeds through out the rest of the garden. The emphasis will be on useful plants and there is no one saying that they can't be decorational as well. As a third option there is always the vertical space and of that we have plenty as well, so all in all we can work towards a very productive, natural and decorative garden. We are not complete newbies on gardening or growing plants and my lessons in garden architecture might come in handy after all, yet it will be a journey of discovery in every way.....

I did plant some currantbushes, red, black and josta on the piece of land, but the first 2 species will be relocated. As a test I planted 4 more black currants in our forest-like part of the garden according to forestgardening principles. The jostas are around the aspen in the middle.
I also planted some acorns this year, nine of them and of 2 different species, judging by the obviously different acorns. I just love oaks! And they might yield food for pigs one day.... I also need to find a place for at least 2 planned cherrytrees and 1 or 2 elderberries (sambucus nigra). The latter will go on the southside of the house and I think the cherries will end up there some place too.

There are several other areas too which need to be tackled. One major item of annoyment is the out of control growth of Upplänsk vallört or Symphytum uplandicum. A wonderful plant, bees love it, perfect for composting but all but impossible to get rid of in places you do not want it! And it spreads like wildfire, too. I tried cutting it and pulling it out by the root.... Now I will be covering the entire area, the steep, rocky slope on the southside of the house, with black foil for a year, hoping that that will take care of the problem. I simply refuse to go for the other option many tell me; spraying...

A second one will be our woodsupply and -storage.
Right now this is made up of a handfull of ramshackle transportpallets with sides and a sheet metal top, in which the wood was stacked to dry. These precariously lean toward one side, fall apart in some places, giving way to the weight of the wood and if it rains the outer layers get wet again. Right now every empty space between the pieces of wood is filled with snow due to the snowstorm we had. Far from an ideal situation, but we had to make due with what we had at the time.
So a decent woodshed in needed and I also want to have some storagecapability right next to the house. For that purpose I need to build a narrow roof along the eastside of the house, so I can store wood there, that immediately can be fed into the heatercellar via a window. No more dragging bags through the house....

The third one has to be to improve the access to our house as in improving the existing path and stairs and hopefully add a second (wooden) stair that will give us a direct access to the vegetable garden and the compostheap therein. This second stair at the moment is optional though, but it will materialize some time in the future. Incidentally it will be placed on the a fore mentioned slope with wooden bins beside it for herbgrowing. We found the idea on the internet, but lost the source. It is the only thing we can do with it, since the slope's main buildingmaterial is boulders.... Big ones, too. Those get real hot in summer by the way...but retain warmth in early spring and late autumn.

I am planning in embedding an irrigation system of some sort, so I can water the herbs on one point; the top next to the stairs and the water will run down from bin to bin.
I am also thinking irrigationhose here, but by the looks of the images you can tell it will cost a fair amount of material, so we'll be on the lookout for that. I was initially thinking about using the wood from torndown buildings/shed, but I used a lot of smaller pieces for heating our house up till christmas and I was not pleased by the amount of crap that came out of the wood; nails, paint, tar and what not. And this was wood that hadn't even been painted with regular paint! The red paint here usually is nothing but powdered red stone mixed with boiled linseedoil.
On the other hand does this paint conserve the wood and untreated wood will have to be treated anyhow, so there's a bit of a dilemma there.
Pressure impregnated is not even an issue to consider....

The forth one is chickens and the fifth one beekeeping.
At first I wanted to go for purebred chickens, being a local breed called Hedemorahöns. One of the reasons is that these have been bred in local conditions for generations, so they are hardy. Plus they lay quite well and give a decent amount of meat as well. Another point is that I do believe this breed has to be preserved as one of Sweden's allmogeras (how does one translate that? Old peasantry breed??) and I wanted to be a part of the genebank.
Right now I am setting my goals much less high and I will opt for any decent sized, proper egg laying hen I can get my hands on. Economics are one consideration, lack of knowledge another. I did not even mention the regulations on keeping, breeding etc.
Some real challenges will be the predators around here; fox, chickenhawk and marten. I want to let my chickens roam free, yet do not want to sacrifice the lot of them.

The beekeeping-part.... well, here too I lowered my goals... a lot!
At first I wanted to have them, use them for my "company to be" and work toward a way to make it economically sound. I also wanted a breed that is local and again pure. While I still support the Nordbi-project, I will be satisfied with any bee species can get in the beginning. From there I'll work my way towards the indigenous species.
One thing I will be doing from the beginning is keep bees on an as natural as possible basis, meaning leaving enough honey for the hive to thrive. Not plundering its foodsupply and substituting it for sugarwater. I firmly believe that that will only weaken the hive and give diseases a chance to spread. If a hive is not strong enough to survive with chemicals or antibiotics...... But I must do everything I can to keep the hive as healthy as possible, by creating the best conditions possible.
Anyway.... I made the choice to use the Warré-principles, explained here at and they even have plans to build the hives yourself. So nothing a ruler, saw, hammer and some nails can't fix, right? And with any luck I might even be able to entice a swarm to come and live with us.
This means the only real investments would have to be a beekeepers suite as I mean to leave the hive alone for the first year, so it can grow strong.

Now we have this wooden garden shed; 10m2 and located in the exact wrong place! Upon close inspection I noticed it has a double wall. Taking off the outer wall would yield a lot of wood to build a chickencoop and reduce the weight of the shed, so it might be moveable to a new location to serve as a woodshed. 10m2x2 meters equals 20m3 of wood with room above it for ventilation.
I thought of keeping the shed as a chicken coop, but moving it to the desired location is not possible. Not without a 50m crane or helicopter or by taking it completely apart to only rebuild it on the right location, hoping it will still fit and my skills are sufficient.
Anyway it will serve as the basis to achieve 2 major goals.
When we move the gardenshed we will obtain more useable parkingspace and a good possible location for the new septictank / wastewaterfilter too.

Repurposing the gardenshed means finding new storage solutions for the tools. I might just be able to create a small tool shed under the overhang of the balcony.
Another solution is to reduce the amount of tools. We have a fair amount of grass. One part is well kept and flat, so a musclepowered mower is usefull. The other part is wild, uneven and I took care of that with an old, noisy, smelly, enginedriven lawnmower that got pretty banged up in the proces. That part happens to be the part where the vegetablegarden is to be situated. If I use shredded wood between the beds I do not need to mow.... So exit lawnmower. Saves a few square cm's and a lot of gas, fumes and noise. For other more difficult to reach places I have the scythe. All in all I do not have all that many gardentools or at least not bulky ones. An array of handtools, yet not enough spades or decent shovels. A wheelbarrow will find its way here, other than the heavy, unwieldy thing I have now. Swedish gardentools are so very different from what I am used to!! They feel clumsy, heavy and like I said unwieldy.

Originally we were planning on having a rootcellar as well, but we will skip this plan. There will be a large foodcellar in the house, so no need to make another one.
Another plan is to have 2 1 cubicmeter tanks linked to each other to collect rainwater for wateringpurposes and a pent in front of those, which might house a small anvil and forge and a pannmur, which is a large woodheated kind of kettle. They are perfect for dying wool and fabric or just handy for heating larger amounts of warm water for whatever reason.

Something like this;

So there you have it; a nice, clear plan for me to use....
I often have lots of ideas, plans etc. in my head, all worked out. Putting it on paper, understandably, is more challenging.


  1. Ron, just found your blog courtesy of Andrea. Can't wait to read it all tomorrow. Beautiful pictures! Thought provoking ideas. Thank you!

  2. Die woekerplant, is die er niet onder te krijgen door zout water erop te sprayen in de zomer? In onze vorige tuin hadden we veel van die 'paardestaarten'. Gelukkig nog geen plaag zoals bij de buren. Maar wat daar juist weer bij helpt, werd mij verteld, is ze extra bemesten. Dan groeien ze kapot. Gek genoeg. Misschien is er ook zoiets met jouw plant?
    Leuk is dat, plannen maken. En straks gewoon beginnen, succes, falen, opnieuw beginnen... blijft leuk. Benieuwd wat het wordt. Heel veel succes iig!

    1. Geen idee of dat zout spuiten zou werken, dus ik ga voor de zekerdere optie, voordat de zaak helemaal de spuigaten uit loopt.'
      En ik ben ook benieuwd....

  3. Nice pictures. First grand plans, then putting them on paper, then lowering the goals, then reality. :) spring is so close, sounds like you will be busy. Bees sound good. We grew up with bees and fresh honey and other bee products available all the time loved it. My uncle also cured his chronic arthritis with bee bites. Good luck with all the tasks.

    1. It is all a matter of planning and keeping my fingers crossed. Spreading the workload is the key here.

  4. Did you know... Aspens typically grow in large clonal colonies, derived from a single seedling, and spread by means of root suckers; new stems in the colony may appear at up to 30–40 m from the parent tree. Each individual tree can live for 40–150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony is long-lived. In some cases, this is for thousands of years, sending up new trunks as the older trunks die off above ground. For this reason, it is considered to be an indicator of ancient woodlands. Some aspen colonies become very large with time, spreading about 1 m per year, eventually covering many hectares. They are able to survive forest fires, because the roots are below the heat of the fire, with new sprouts growing after the fire burns out.

    Then how about trying the smother technique on your garden area. Just chop down the weeds/plants there and then cover them with mulch (animal poop or tree chippings). You can make mounds in this sheet mulch for your plants and then you don't have to disturb the soil ecosystem. Look into it. Maybe it would help you "take off" slowly and not be so much big work at first.

    1. Thanks. Didn't know that about aspen!
      Although the ones on the property border are neatly planted in a row, so...
      I have to make choices in doing the garden, weighing my options.
      What do I have? Plenty of time.
      What do I not have? Resources or cash
      What is an unknown factor? My physical health (shoulder)

      So I have the time to keep weeds in check, no cash or resources for covering the plantbeds and the third option... well, that might spoil both jobs.

    2. Well, your ambitions are worthy. Your examples are beautiful! We just finished the extension on our chicken pen and we're very happy.