Lily Hope

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since Mar 30, 2018
We bought a postage stamp sized (0.17 acre) lot with a 1,500 sq. ft. story and a half 1935 bungalow in March of 2017 in north central Massachusetts.

Ours is an older small city neighborhood made up of primarily single family homes, and not overly lacking in greenery above the grass level, though most homes don't have even kitchen gardens that we've seen. Close by are clusters of multi family homes, including one that we rented the first year we moved here. The city is fairly open minded about matters regarding gardens and chickens and the like, but there are some restrictions.

The backyard is relatively flat and we hope to take advantage in time of its facing SSE. Our front yard is steeply sloped. The side yards, due to the long rectangle property shape, are very thin on the west side of the house, and is primarily the driveway leading to a single car garage on the east.

In 2017, our outdoor efforts were mostly cleaning up a lot that had been neglected for many years (family that inherited it didn't mind it well, nor their renters' wear and tear in or out), though the original owners obviously had a green thumb in the gardening department, both with food and other plantings. I did start some regrading work, but ran out of time before the cold arrived.

I'm the handier of our coupling, so I tend to be the one fiddling the most inside and out.

I am trying to only add natives, but am still on the fence about non-natives that were here already. I have been learning about invasives, and am diligent in their exorcism from our land. I'm interested in developing a food forest with companions over time, and to some day build a walapini as well to extend our growing season.

We were very lucky in that there was an abundance (to us) of berries here: strawberry, red raspberry, black raspberry, and blackberries. Fortunately, the high bush blueberry we bought before we realized our good fortune wasn't something already here. We also have an old crabapple tree that has been overshadowed, and we're currently planning to transplant it.

We did get a water barrel last year (reduced rate through the city), and hope to add another this year though the rear of the house has no gutters. We didn't need to use our outdoor spigot at all just from adding that one barrel last year.

I'm also looking into water management of the property, with plans for a small pond; dry creek bed (on the west strip due to a rock wall property border); and a rain garden in the front yard.

I'm also a moss enthusiast, and curious about mushrooms.

Inside, we started adding insulation as we could afford it to the attic (which had none), and are still trying to listen to the house as we continue clean up, unpacking, and adjusting over time. We have many, many plans for our home, but we're trying to be realistic in what happens when. I only managed to get one house plant so far, but have plans for more, partly because I love plants and also partly for their air cleaning help.

Although I grew up in a multi family home owned by my maternal grandparents with wonderful gardens, I have forgotten much of what I learned back then.

I have already learned a lot from this site before I signed up, and look forward to being a more active part of discussions.

FWIW, I'm also an old house junky. One of the reasons I fell in love with our home is because we have almost all of the original everything here.
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Recent posts by Lily Hope

Glad I found this thread.  I had read about these in The 2 Hour Garden by Roger Grounds, and was curious about them because I like beans.  

One of the reasons I found this thread is because today I saw a hummingbird feeding on ours, which surprised me.  So I started researching them more, and found a link to here after I read on wiki that they were perennials and I searched trying to figure out if I could manage that here.  

Apparently the hummingbird attractant factor is a well known thing, and I'm late to learning the fact.  I'm in 5b, so I don't know if I can cover keep the two that made it from three planted this year.  We still have a lot of seeds left over from what we bought, plus we'll have whatever seeds from the plants as well for next year.

Here's a picture of ours, taken July 16th.  We were late getting things in the ground this year (first year with our kitchen garden).  They were planted on June 1st.
2 years ago

Amiran Ó Floinn wrote:{snip}And the yellow-leaved weed was...Fleabane!  Which I will keep despite its poor pollinating capacity because it look nice and colourful.

I'm not sure why you think fleabane [Erigeron] is not good for pollinators.  Maybe because they don't serve as broad a pollinator spectrum as you would prefer?  Once ours are up in our 5b lawn, this is a regular sight at our house, and these are but one type of regular visitor I was lucky to catch on camera last week:

Amiran Ó Floinn wrote:I also transplanted five grown milkweek but they didn't survive their new place, despite ample watering and good "resoiling". I was hoping for a new monarch egg-laying station or at least more nectar flowers.

Which type of milkweed do you have?  There are several variants, some prefer different conditions.  Did you get the entire taproot out?  Here's a guide with some basics that might help: 8 Tips to (Successfully) Transplant Milkweed

Don't assume even if you have over a dozen of them that you'll get a lot of Monarchs.  In our small common milkweed patch last year (just under 2 dozen plants then, nearing four dozen this even though I harvested seeds I did not plant), there was only one Monarch larvae I ever spotted the entire season, and I never even saw the egg or even the parent on our plant though I did see one adult lolling through the backyards of my neighbors and ours one day.  Gratis, I don't park a chair on my lawn for hours daily to look for them during the migration, but I was out there every day examining the plants for the eggs in high hopes and still managed to miss at least the one that was born and is pictured here below.   (FWIW, we use no pesticides or herbicides so I'm still wondering why only one our first year here.)

Also keep a watchful eye out on those for ant tended aphid farms.  The farms can be particularly destructive if your milkweed plants are tightly clustered.  I've read it's better to break the plant cluster up in smaller groups, which we have done this year and I'm hoping to good result.  The ants will also attack beneficials like ladybirds that try to eat the aphids.  The image below is what one can look like.  Depending on your ant farmer types and aphid types, the coloration will vary but will look much the same.

Amiran Ó Floinn wrote:I also bought oregano and Korean mint pots. Like the milkweed, I had to dig a hole in the useless grass to plant them but I don't think that's the permaculture way. It's just I'm too impatient.

 We are still using some more typical flat beds for our plantings since we have so much remediation to do on our grounds as well as trying to shift and update.  Still, we try to use everything on site and use similar methods to hugel even when the bed overall isn't full out hugel-ed.  So when we remove turf to dig a hole, we use an old fashioned edger (looks like a flat half moon metal at the end of a long pole) to mark out the area, then a fork to lift the turf level and set it nearby.  Then dig the hole, then flip the turf over (root side up) and put it at the base of the hole before putting the soil back in along with whatever we're planting.  That way the hated grass will eventually break down and feed the plant you just planted.  I'm no expert on this sort of thing, that's just something we started doing after I read about how to build hugel beds, and we adapted for the flatter beds without wood within the dug area.  If the hole won't be too deep, so the turf might interfere because bits can still work their way back up, into the compost it goes or we've also used it as filler at erosion points as we have no curb where our property abuts the street.  Eventually we hope to have no turf grass, but we're nowhere near ready for that stage yet even though we don't have much even in our second year here.

Not sure if any of this will help, but this is what I thought to share on bits from your post.
2 years ago
We've been short on time of late, so "for now" when I stupidly impulse purchased some Knight pea starters at our local Farmer's Market, we took a square top wire frame that we found on the property and did the string dangle method with some jute even though we had set aside fallen wood for some teepees.  Then the rains came, and where I put the starters inside wasn't very smart, so once in the ground they died despite some attempt on my part to prevent that.

Shortly after getting the starters in, we started planting the actual seeds we had bought this year.  (Our entire schedule is late this year.  Late to order, late with freezing night temps, et al.)  I am hoping to build the teepees soonish because the corn is also slow starting, so my hope of three sistering might not work this year, and the wire frame we found is only maybe two feet above ground in height.  Still, the wire will work for the short term if I get distracted with other things, then I can retie the thread to the teepee.

Our scarlett runner beans and black turtle beans are just breaking ground, both sets direct sown in our first hugel bed that ended up settling much lower than we thought it would.  We've only had time for the one so far, so what little we've planted save some pumpkins have all gone in that bed.  We only had a budget of $20 for seeds this year, though we bought a few herb starters (mostly as companions, but some will be used if we don't kill them-basil, rosemary, lavender, parsley) with the one pea starter I mentioned above.

We're very new at this.  I haven't done any kitchen gardening since I still lived in the mulltifamily home my maternal grandparents owned in Southern NJ aside from a one time cherry tomato in a container that was a gift.  My other half has never done any gardening at all until he met me.   He is very firm in his belief that his thumbs will forever be black, but he doesn't mind helping with direction.  I have forgotten much of what I knew back then, so I research a lot, but I often feel like I'm the blind leading the blind.  *chuckles*
2 years ago
I got my call back from the Building Inspector yesterday.  Nice fellow.  Definitely low key, and a fruitful conversation.  

Here's a sum up after we established that what he'd been told was accurate (and after explaining what a walipini was, which I think he's still a bit confused about as well):

- once I confirmed it's a single family home, he said we do not need the supervisor (LCS).  

- he seemed--I don't know the best word, but assured comes to mine--when I brought up finding the 5' minimum side property line related table footnote online.  (I think he was still on the fence just slightly about how much I really did know what I was doing or not at that point, and I think the shift might have been because that's not mentioned directly on the "homeowners" one pager like the LCS is, and so showed I had looked at more than just that.)  I only mention this because his direct but purposeful Q&A tone seemed to relax just enough to be noticed, and it stuck with me even now.  Maybe because my aunt was an inspector, and she would tell stories about folks that had no idea what they were getting into, and always seemed happier when she'd talk about the ones that did.  Maybe I'm just a loon and he finally had a chance to grab a seat, who knows?

- I can draft the plan/elevation myself, we do not need a structural engineer to consult or do drawings.

- once I mentioned I'd already spoken to the Board of Health about using a rainwater system for it and was waiting to hear back from them, we didn't speak further on anything regarding water use except later, when I finally had my list in front of me and asked about the cistern.

- once he knew the approximate size, that seemed to stop a possible line of questioning (I think due to what I mentioned before that if it was over a certain size, it would get deemed commercial).

- we won't have to go through the steps in the process for insulation/house wrap inspections (other than the frost protection of the foundation); don't have to worry about smoke detectors, plumbing beyond what the Health Department may care about, or electrical.

- the 4' minimum for foundation is measured from the exterior grade (so you were spot on, Mike)

- we can build a cistern, but he specifically asked if a rainbarrel wouldn't be enough to go to all the trouble of a cistern (especially since to him it's such a small structure).  We talked about cisterns more than anything else, both above and below ground.  I told him it was something we hadn't decided on for certain, and that I had to do some math on the water capture overall before I would know if we were definitely pursuing it or not.  Safety seemed a big concern for him with the cistern, although when I mentioned it may be housed within the walipini, he seemed intrigued in a good way.  I also think the scale in his mind for a cistern is much bigger than what I had in mind, given his asking if the rain barrel would be enough.

Overall, I felt he thought this would be a pretty straight forward addition, and didn't seem overly concerned about anything that came up other than the cistern.  I do think that both for him and the Health Department, our project is a bit of a good sort of curiosity.  So hopefully as long as I do my end of things well, I think they'll do their best to help it move along.

I have not had/made time to start on the grid paper work out yet.  Hubby had covered the drafting table with a bunch of his miniatures he was sorting out, which he will be cleaning up today.  I'd already tried to be clear that nothing except drawing stuff is ever supposed to be there--but he's the type to spread messes everywhere (one of his quirks, as I have mine), so in the future I'll be keeping the drafting table tilted when not in use to prevent that from happening again.  (We have a craft room, which is where our drafting table is.)  

Tomorrow will be busy for both of us, and I have a lot to do this weekend.  I should have something with dimensions to show next week though.
2 years ago

C Dart wrote:How tall is the first plant? It looks to be shrub like, wintergreen is a ground cover. The second plant is in the family Ericaceae, which includes blueberry, huckleberry and salal.

Now that they're berryless, since we have so many berry everything, I'll have to look at the leaves again to remember which is which to be more certain of the height.  After looking at the images again, I'm thinking even though it's in the rock wall, it's not low enough to be considered ground cover, but I'll hold out saying either way until I'm sure.  The huckleberry pics I've looked at do seem similar for the 2nd plant.  Thank you for the info for both pics.

Elizabeth Griffith wrote:Number one looks like Twinberry - Twinberry honeysuckle.  The flowers aren't as large and whiskered as other honeysuckles.

Here's a page with some info:

I hope this helps

I'm in a holding pattern to a point with these IDs now, waiting for flower in the hopes that will help narrow down the IDs.  So I will keep the Twinberry in the possible pool.  Thank you for the suggestion.  

I did finally figure out what had gone wrong with our better camera that is much better at closeups, so once they flower, I'll do an update to this thread.  Between showing the flowers plus better showing the details for the leaves, I think that will help.
2 years ago

Mike Jay wrote:

Lily Hope wrote:I did confirm the frost depth requirement for this area for the walipini foundation (4' below grade minimum).  One thing I'm not sure about (but will ask) is if the grade in this case should be considered the outside grade, or either the open cold sink depth (lowest, but much smaller percentage of overall floor space), or the working floor area of the walipini.  (My terminology may be incorrect in trying to differentiate between cold sink and the higher used floor space.)

I'm 99.74% sure this is always from the outside grade.  Otherwise basements would need footings 4' below them which never happens.  If you ask them, I wouldn't confuse them with mention of "cold sinks".  Just ask if it's from the exterior or interior grade...

Good to know.  I also will try to keep my query simple as you suggested.  Thank you.
2 years ago
23rd April Progress Report on the research side of planning.

I finally remembered to bookmark the relevant local code I need to follow.  

I called the Building Department today and inquired about what info I might be missing, and was told the person I should speak to is out on inspections.  They took my name and number and he will get back to me.

I also found an online walk through on our town's site of the permit process here.   Unfortunately, it seems to only be written about whole house construction, but at least this part helped give me an idea of how many interruptions there might be for interim inspections during the build:

Permit in hand, the construction process may begin. The Inspection Sequence is as follows.

Footings- Once poured and stripped, call for inspection BEFORE backfill.

Foundation Wall- Once poured, stripped, moisture proofed, with drainage pipe in place, stone  covered to code and silt cloth installed,  as well as tail off.  Call for inspection BEFORE backfill.

Rough  Frame- Once  fully  framed,  roof  and  windows  in  place, and  fully  weather  tight, and plumbing and electrical rough sign offs are in place, you are ready to call for rough frame inspection. If a fireplace has been installed, inspection for exterior combustion air, and clearance to flammables will also be completed.

Insulation  Inspection- After  all  insulation  and  vapor  barrier, as  well as ventilation  has been installed, call for insulation inspection.

I did find a table with data related to "Lot, area, frontage, yard, and height requirements".  I saw a footnote that there must be a five foot minimum to the side property line, but that's where the edge of the house currently is, so that's not an issue.  I was worried that there may have been a change to minimum width since the house was built and would have to adjust accordingly.  Overall, we should be fine in those requirements, but it's good info to know for certain up front.

I was happy to find a lot of the permit related forms online because they give me clear direction in information I will need to provide.  I also think they will help keep me on top of planning this way because I'll have to consider the various aspects as things develop.  

One really important thing I found out from looking at the various forms is I may have to also deal with the Board of Health because of the water containment system.  I just called them, and when I told her what we wanted to do, at first she said, "Well this will be a first for us."  She also said she needs to do some research and get back to me, asking me to spell the name of what we would be building (I told her she could wiki it for the basics).  I did think to ask her about cisterns, and she said she did not think we are allowed to build one.  That was a bit of a surprise because I know of older cisterns that exist from our house search (one home had them on the property plans the town's engineering department showed me), but at least I'll know for certain when she gets back to me.

I did see on the Homeowner permit application a mention of a Licensed Construction Supervisor. Further down on the form, though, it seems the owner can claim to be their own Agent, but it seems that's more for contact needs.  When I talk to the Building Department, I'll ask about them.  

I did confirm the frost depth requirement for this area for the walipini foundation (4' below grade minimum).  One thing I'm not sure about (but will ask) is if the grade in this case should be considered the outside grade, or either the open cold sink depth (lowest, but much smaller percentage of overall floor space), or the working floor area of the walipini.  (My terminology may be incorrect in trying to differentiate between cold sink and the higher used floor space.)

I've focused on earth removal and addition specific code at this point.  I've been collecting data and making a list of what I find that's relevant on what requirements need to be met to move this project forward.  I am also trying to get a sense of time frame from initial permit application to breaking ground.

The reason for my focus on those two subjects is because although there is some mention of greenhouse structures, they exclude any differences of both the fact that our project will be attached to our home (they only speak of free standing greenhouses), as well as the fact that it will require earth moving as part of the build (they don't even cover foundations in the greenhouse related code).  I can deduce from related code regarding excavation and additions what will be required, but I want to be sure that my understanding and therefore application of that information is correct before moving further in the planning process.

My short term goal is to finish my initial rough drafts of what we hope to do.  Turns out I do not still have any sort of paper of a large enough size for drafting, not even legal sized paper or a roll of kraft paper.  The storage tube only had old drafts and drawings in it.  So I have to look into if there's a nearby place I can buy more, or if I have to order some online.  I will start a grid paper rough for the time being after I discovered my lack of supplies because I don't know how long it might be before I have drafting paper again.  I am a bit itchy to see at least the elevation and floor plans to scale rather than the rough sketches I've been making.

I also need to mark out the exact depth we'll be taking down the grade on the west and south sides of the house for my own reminder how that will affect the elevations.  The regrading work will be done in advance of the walipini build, but I won't finish that before May.  I should have the measurements for that done today when I go outside shortly to do some yard clean up.
2 years ago

Kim Goodwin wrote:{snip}Does that look similar to you? But the cool thing with this plant is that if you test the berry, the smell should be able to give you the answer!

It does look a bit similar.  Also, very true about how easy it is to test.  *chuckles*  The leaf color I think is not as blue undertoned as the wintergreen, but I will definitely keep this possibilty in mind as I observe it this year.  Thank you!

r ranson wrote:Do you live where salal grows?  The second looks a lot like that.

 I am 5b, so likely not from what I read on that page.  Really lovely flowers though!  Thank you for introducing me to something new and neat.

2 years ago
I tried to search to see if someone else posted about the below, but didn't find it.  Apologies in advance if it's a repeat.

I saw an article today that came out two days ago about a British couple that gave up on their commercial farm of 3,500 acres and let it rewild.  The results they have had are amazing.

You can read the article here: How letting Mother Nature reclaim prime farmland and allowing cattle and ponies to run free produced breathtaking results
2 years ago

C Dart wrote:First plant looks like a honeysuckle. The second is a blueberry.

Hmm.  I don't recall honeysuckle flowers last year, but we had a lot to keep track of in the yard.  I will keep a better eye on the flowers this year.

For the second, it must be a different variety than the other blue we have (high bush that we bought), but that might have to do with age of the plant too.

Thank you!
2 years ago