Everyone seems to want to talk about resolutions around this time of year. I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, but it seems like a good time to bring up our ongoing goals with the land, especially since we were out there today. D. worked on deconstructing the collapsed building once we went looking for raccoons and came up empty, lucky for them. A couple of weeks ago when I was out there by myself, I found a raccoon in the stream near the spring house and then it retreated into the spring house. The spring house really needs a door. The temperature today topped out around 22 degrees Fahrenheit. I spent most of my time walking around. It was cold enough for D. to wear enough clothing to protect himself from protruding nails and sharp edges of sheet metal and while there isn’t much work for me to do when it is that cold, I was actually able to get past some of the multiflora rose and buckthorn since I was also wearing tougher clothing. My walk wasn’t just recreational though, I spent a lot of time thinking about what we should do as we have time and the conditions are right. I followed the trail to the back of the property and then I wound my way into the valley where the stream was down as far as where a fence crosses it separating our land from the neighbors. The water is clear, but I found moneywort most of the length of the stream. When it’s warmer, I’ll work my way down the length of the stream with a couple of 5 gallon buckets pulling it. I think it’ll take years to eradicate this plant. I also found a plastic bottle in the stream and as cold as it was today, I’ll get it another time. I found a tractor tire in a field which I guess I’ll roll somewhere else, also on a warmer day as well as a bunch of unidentified metal junk. I know that on old farms people just dumped things places and left things places, but this still vexes me to no end. I looked for and found another collapsed building that I thought I’d seen on one of the old aerial photos. This one is smaller and with the snow and grass around it I couldn’t really tell how big it was, but I found wood, concrete and shingles, so all the hallmarks of a building. I also looked for dead trees that are down that we should cut up and haul out for firewood. Dead trees that are standing can stay for the woodpeckers, for the mourning dove and for the crows and hawks.
I passed plenty of wild black raspberry bushes and lots of garlic mustard. We arrived too late this year to get any use from the black raspberries. Early in the year, I made pesto with garlic mustard twice with garlic mustard that I pulled along the southwest bike path. There, I just pulled as much as I thought I would use. I’m still using this pesto, some of it containing basil and some of it containing spinach when we want something green. Good thing too, since our basil didn’t do so well this year. I think I’ll be pulling a lot more garlic mustard this year and I’ll be a lot more invested in it. I’ll probably also make a lot more garlic mustard pesto, but this year it’ll be more of an exercise in weeding than just making the best of an invasive weed which also happens to be edible. As I walked around, I also wonder if we’ll find any morels on the property. This weekend, we also finally started using the black walnuts that D. gathered in November now that many hours have been spent shelling them. Not my hours… But I ground up a small quantity of them in the food processor (what a heady aroma) and added them to the crust for a cheesecake for New Year’s Eve. This morning, I chopped a few of them really small and put them in cranberry pancakes spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and orange peel. They’re really potent, so a little goes a long way. I’ll be experimenting with them for a while and would welcome any suggestions as to what we should do with them.
I walked through the orchard and figured that we could have pruned the trees a little more aggressively and I looked at the area that I blocked out for the garden. We need to figure out what to grow besides the asparagus and rhubarb that are already there and of course, we’ll let Mrs. L.’s hollyhocks continue to re-seed themselves. Since we don’t have a fence to keep the deer out, we’ll grow things like the garlic that we already planted, onions, leeks, potatoes, maybe squash and herbs other than parsley. We’ll have to keep the peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, beets (because deer will eat the greens) in the home garden. I suppose we could move the rhubarb and asparagus that we have here out there… Some day we’ll have to build a fence around the orchard and garden areas. More immediately, we’ll think about what kind of trees we’d like to put in. We could put a better wind break on the west side of the orchard and I think that is part of the plan. We’ve been consulting the Wisconsin DNR site for information on what types of trees are native and would do well as well as Arbor Day as a possible source of trees.
Sometimes, when we talk to D.’s parents, I feel like they think we should have a really organized and linear plan for what we are doing with the land. We haven’t even been there a year yet and we haven’t seen everything. Our goals including growing food and making use of wild food resources are constant. I’m certainly not planning on trying to eat my way through the Peterson Guide to Edible Wild Plants. We’ll continue working on restoring the native plant communities and eradicating the invasive plants, we’ll garden as we can and make better use of the orchard. We’ll dispose of old trash items when practical. We’ll demolish buildings that serve no purpose, improve the useful ones and hopefully build a decent cabin with plumbing in time. The plan is pretty fluid at this point. We’ll do what we feel like doing or whatever is demanding immediate attention. Hopefully we’ll get out there every couple of weeks for the next couple of months. The snow, while gone for now in many places, is deeply drifted in the shade near the far end of the driveway and we won’t stay overnight until we can park inside the gate. For now, hopping over the gate and walking the rest of the way in with whatever we can carry is the best we can do. I think that is how it will be until late March. Maybe by next winter, we’ll have a solution for snow removal.