ArborVilla: A Picture's Worth 1000 Words


Good to see you back again, dear readers! For today's post, we'll be diving into an idea I've been kicking around for a while, which is to post just one picture and write around 1000 words about it. My first post in this format was about bonds and symbolism, and if you like you can see it here.

This will be less philosophical, more informative. In the picture above, you can see about 80% of my fledgeling ArborVilla homestead. This is the view looking roughly North from my kitchen door, which faces NW. Do you have your bearings now? Good, it's not important 😁

The homestead started as just the home, which is where I was standing when I took this picture. It's a large house, and a bit of a fixer-upper. The house is on a .89 acre lot, and the property line on this side goes through the stump you see in the lower right corner, and the barrel top you see just left of the pile of rocks below the center of the picture. When I moved in, this property was all deciduous shrubs and wild roses, everything on the other property was forest (growing over top of deciduous shrubs and wild roses).

Things around this property are pokey. Half of the shrubs seem to be some kind of sloe berry, and they get covered in small, needle-like twigs. Some of the trees are hawthorn and crabapple, which get serious 3 inch long spikes on them. Wherever I cut back the roses, blackberries, black raspberries, and thistles grow. I don't mind. I like that the place is thorny and forbidding, just like me ;)

In the very lower left hand corner of the picture, you can just see the end of some deck rail, with a long planting box on it. We've used these long planting boxes for years to grow greens, flowers, spices, and other things we like to have nearby. With the boxes, we can start things long before the last frost, and just bring the boxes inside on cold nights.

Moving from the railing toward the center of the picture, you can see my old 3 wheeler with the dump cart that I use to move most of my materials around. It's a Yamaha 200cc with a pull start, circa roughly 1982. I paid $300 for it about 6 years ago, and it has required almost no maintenance. The paths around here are too narrow, and often too steep, for larger equipment, though I'm currently working on an old 4 wheeler that I hope will make a good replacement.

The 3 wheeler is parked in front of the garden we call the bean bed, though beans are a small portion of what we grow there now. The soil on that part of the hill isn't soil at all, just a big lump of hardpan clay, and for the first few years, beans were the only thing that really grew there. I tilled this whole square of clay about 8" deep, screened all of that soil by hand, then brought in dirt, compost, and piles of leaves from other parts of the property and tilled it all together. The stones that I screened out were used to make improvement to the driveway, which is also difficult and forbidding.

The yucca plant you can see just below the Yamaha is ready to be split up, harvested, and replanted. Yucca is one of the plants we grow as both a decoration and a prepping tool. They grow all year long, the leaves can be used to make very strong rope, and the roots can be a significant food supply.

The blue spot you see just above the Yamaha is our chicken tractor, which I posted about here if you would like to know more about it. I seldom move the tractor anymore, it just serves as extra space for the chickens when they're under lockdown.

Just above the chicken tractor you can see the chicken palace, which I haven't done a post about yet. It's connected to the tractor by a 'tunnel' made of 4' tall wire fence that I bent into shape and staked to the ground. Someday I hope to have their tunnel go along the entire woodline, with access points that I can open and close to let them into different areas of the property. I like to let them roam as much as possible, but they can do a lot of damage if left unsupervised, especially to seedlings. One year they dug up over 300 pea sprouts in less than 5 minutes.

The property, which I acquired about 8 years ago, extends up into the woods to the left of the big pine for another 80' or so. I'm considering building a row of 3 tiny homes up there, to have as rental properties. I'm also hoping to channel some more of the water that runs out of the hillside into my ponds, and use that extra water flow to run a small water wheel.

In the center of the picture are my compost bins, which I posted about here. Getting a path out to this pile that I could take the 3 wheeler on was a real game changer around here. Once I could take all the organic 'spoils' from cleaning up around here to one spot, I was quickly able to make enough compost that I could plant things anywhere I wanted on the property, and not have to wait to amend soil.

Just below the compost, you can see a little grey square, which is one of the free hose reels I've picked up and repaired. You can't really see the main hose station to the left of the chicken tractor, but a gravity fed line that was already on the property runs into a 4 way manifold that feeds hoses all around the property. I've had the equipment to install drip irrigation for years, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

The little yellow spot to the right of the hose reel is an archery target. Most of my practice shots are taken from the same spot where I took this picture, a distance of 30 yards. My bow is one of the earlier compound bows ever made, a roughly 30 year old Bear that I inherited from my father. I'm still getting it (and myself) dialed in, since neither of us had done any shooting in 15 years. I'm down to about a 7" inch group with 10 arrows at this distance, I'd like to get that under 3".

Directly to the right of the target is the brassica bed, which is a little hard to see in the picture. You can kinda make out the T-posts and logs on the lower end, which were recently added to help level the bed a bit more. I posted about the start of that project here.

The stump you see in the lower right corner of the photo was the star of my first '1000 words' post, and that brings us in a nice full circle to the end of this second one. I hope you enjoyed this slightly different 'walk-thru' of the homestead. If so, give me a follow, because I have a few other ideas already, and am looking forward to exploring this concept a little further on both of my accounts. I hope to see you there!

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