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April 21, 2015 - 2015 Spring Fling

Are You Ready?

The transition from our relatively mild Winter 2014 to Spring 2015 is well under way and Spring is just about upon us here finally in the Twin Cities, Minnesota area.  We talk with family members in Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and to Iowa to gage where they are in this season transition to get a sense of when is Spring coming.   “Up here”, as we like to say, we also pay attention to the ice-out prediction dates on Lake Minnetonka.  When the ice comes off the lakes there is usually two to three weeks before the buds on the grape vines start to swell and start pushing.  Looking at them last night, the pruned up vines were still sapping and looks like there might be a week or two before they begin to push new shoots.  However, I see the forsythia bush is already in bloom, the willows have that green tinge of pushing new shoots, and the maple tree buds are really starting to swell.  So Spring is definitely close and while we are glad the cold and snow days are behind us, there is a lot to do and hopefully, this will help trigger a few things in your own check list or things you would like to accomplish around your place.

Spring Planning -       Tip #1 - Don’t wait to Plan until Spring!  It’s usually too late and you will have missed the opportunity of truly achieving your Spring time goals, because there are always many other things that are getting shuffled around this time of year.  Without that roadmap, we laugh at ourselves when we fall short of our goals, because we didn’t have a solid and agreed to plan earlier on.

                    Tip #2 - Plan out what you want to accomplish in the late Fall and Winter for your Spring and Summer for the next season.  Here is the deal and for those of you already know what we are talking about, "Yourstead" is a living and breathing ecosystem with a home full of activities.  There is never a right time or wrong time, only peek opportunities to maximize results.  For us, we tend to start the discussions in late Fall when we’re still able to walk the property and see the results from the previous growing season or take a look at what landscaping features we created and what still needs to be completed.  We also examine the growing beds, trees, low spots and drainage areas, to where we want neighbors and patrons might want to sit back and enjoy different views.

When you stop by our place, we are constantly under repair or in maintenance mode it seems like to us.  The reason is that there is simply not enough time and money to do everything you want to do, unless you are fortunate to have all the time and money to make your estate palatial.  We have given ourselves permission, to let everyone see the flaws as well as the huge accomplishments in our activities.  We tend to laugh or cringe at ourselves when we see the un-organized log pile, the bushes around the house not hedged, or the mess around our boat from the last construction still piled up needing a better storage or disposal spot.  For those of you who come out to visit, we hope you see the new winery building, the raised beds, the landscaped fire pit, and our showcase,  the vineyard.  We see that our visitors are more amazed by those things than the few things that are in constant need of attention.  So don’t get to worked up about the compost not in the compost pile or the chicken coop that needs to be cleaned out before the next chicken flock goes in there in a few weeks or other things like that.  Perfection doesn’t exist in this world and that is truly a goal.  With your Spring Plan that you started last Fall and during the Winter, you will have a better chance of accomplishing what you want to accomplish, knowing that there is always next year to make the next round of improvements on your homestead.

The one thing to comment about your sin piles, as we like to call ours, is that they are prone to make good homes for unwelcome guest of mice, rats, bunnies, raccoons,  coyotes, and kitty cats that have gone wild.  These animals do carry disease, and so it is important to keep you sin piles away from your home if at all possible and better yet picked up and organized enough to minimize the chance of these critters making a wintering home where you don’t want them to settle.  Usually the height of the sin pile indicates how well you can plan or not.  Typically, large sin piles means that you are taking on too much for you time.  Be honest with yourself and your physical capabilities and take a true assessment against your plan.  My better half likes to take my estimates and triple the quoted time I tell her and usually that is where it ends up.  Now, I do this kind of stuff regularly and have a few pieces of equipment to help me.  You might want to consider bumping up your time estimate to make sure your sin pile is dealt with for each of these projects or hire some help.  The other side of doing all these projects is also to enjoy and feel good about your progress.

Typically, we like to do 2 - 3 landscaping projects every season.  It’s not a race, but just a journey with no end destination, because about the time you have everything you want finished, then you look at some of your initial projects need to be re-done, tweaked, or just spruced up a bit by adding a coat of paint or reinforcing the structure or adding a feature like putting roofing steel underneath our deck to allow us to use that pretty large area as a dry cold storage space.

For landscaping, that’s why we like to assess the property in the fall and make comments about where water was standing, shady areas, space that is not being utilized and why, excessive sloped areas, grassy areas, retaining walls that should be there or not, trees placement, garden and orchard to where we want the animal areas to be placed.  It’s constantly re-assessing the property and giving us that permission to change to improve the look and feel of our homestead and to make it work for us.  We are not karma fanatics, but we do pay attention and look to see how the property flows, if that makes sense.   Getting a Spring Plan in place really allows you to sense what is going to be ideal and then start building out from there.

Spring Doing -      Tip #3 -  Don’t plant quite yet.

               Tip #4 - Get all of the spring clean up done and lay out your “Planned” projects

               Tip #5 - Landscape away

Up here in  central Minnesota, June 1 is our all clear of frost.  We get teased all through out the Spring thinking that it’s time to plant when we get a run of 65 and 70 degree days in March and April.  All right, the Winter of 2014, we still had piles of snow until May.  Anyway, we all get excited and want to get out there and get planting.  

Hold your horses.  As much as you want to get out there on those day, just remember that Jack Frost is still lurking around.  You might try a few early spring bulbs or a few cold hardy vegetables in mid - April or early May that can tolerate some frosty mornings.  You just have to be all right if you loose them.  Case in point, we have had a run of some super nice 70+ degree days.  We all get psyched up for the growing season after being kind of stuck to indoor and non-growing activities going back to October.  That’s a long 6 months.  We are ready for a change of pace.  Guess what, this week’s forecast, highs in the low 40’s and lows in the high 20’s.  This is why we like to encourage everyone to get your Spring clean up activities done as well as one or two of the landscaping projects before planting.  

Spring clean up is like boot camp training.  You can literally start early in the morning and go until dark.  It’s a full body work out and you hit the sheets, exhausted.  I mean, I have done so many bend overs picking up grape vines that have helped my mid-torso,  bi-cep training doing a ton of raking, and Popeye forearms by the amount of clipping I do on the vines and hedges.  What’s great about early Spring clean up and landscaping is that it is cool and the soil is moist, meaning that it is much easier to work in these cool conditions  as opposed to a hard packed - sun baked surface and sweltering heat in July and August.  With the amount of walking around the property and sweating around each activity, "Yourstead" definitely gets you ready to fling into the Summertime season to enjoy all of your earlier planning by watching it take shape and bloom in late Spring and early Summer.  Enjoy your results.  You deserve it.


PS>>  If you are like us, you are probably already thinking about next year’s plan…..  :-)