Grit Blogs > Tackling the Country Life

The Green Acre Quest

By Steve Daut


Tags: pond, fishing,

Ok, so we’re not Oliver and Lisa, and we’ve never been in Hooterville, but after living our entire adult lives in relatively urban settings, Sue and I have moved out to a place with 2 acres and a pond near Chelsea, Michigan. In a way, we’re both going back to our childhoods – I am from a small town in Iowa, and Sue grew up in the country 100 miles west of here.

The house was a bit of a wreck with years of deferred maintenance to correct before we could move in. Now, the house itself is mostly done, our dog has turned junkyard almost overnight, and we’re beginning to focus our sights on the prospect of project work for the next zillion years or so. Unless I miss my guess, we’re not the only ones who have had to learn rural-ish ways, so this blog is dedicated to sharing ideas and discoveries along the way.

This list of potential projects goes on and on, and we’re looking for insight from the experts – folks who have actually had to tackle these things. Some of the potential topics we anticipate discussing are listed below. If you have some particular insight into any of them, jump in and share your thoughts!

Potential topics: building the ideal compost pile; what’s the cheapest wood for heating a home when you consider BTUs and everything else; septic field dos and don’ts; how to heal a pond; picking out fishing lures; cleaning up a scrub woodlot; raised bed gardening; tapping into the sun’s power; pros and cons of small lot wind generation; personal hothouses; native plantings; persnickety chain saws; home improvement nightmares; back-up power; can bass really taste good; deer and dogs; native plantings.

I’ve attached a couple of photos of the place. The first one is the pond out front. It’s about three-quarters of an acre, which is great because I don’t have to mow as much lawn that way. The pond is stocked with bass, catfish, and the biggest bluegills I’ve ever seen. Problem is, it’s also full of muck, algae, and bottom weeds.

Pond

The second photo is the back yard, which is the intended site of the garden, native plantings, and the perfect compost pile. There’s also a big beautiful wolf oak and the remnants of a foundation that was probably the original barn. Oh, and my dog Chili is in the photo, too. She refused to move, sensing her chance to become a celebrity. She’s an Australian Shepherd mix with her summer hair cut. Make no mistake, this is her place and she’ll defend it to the death, at least until the next thunderstorm sends her flying off to hide in her master’s arms.

Backyard and Chili

Before I sign off, I’d like to share a quick method I learned for getting a newly installed ceiling fan to straighten up and quit making that maddening “tick tick tick.” First rebalance it, and when that doesn’t work, just cuss at it. Worked like a charm for me.

So there you have it – this blog is about discovering the country life after becoming citified. Please share your own experiences and discoveries, and we can all learn together. I hope to hear from you soon!

cindy murphy
8/30/2008 10:12:43 PM

Hi, Steve. I'm not familar with Glendal Corners; I don't think I can recall ever hearing the name. Love to show you around the nursery sometime; it's quite the place with terrific atmosphere. We've got customers that come all the way from Ann Arbor, Indiana, and Chicago...even as far away as Detroit just for the variety we offer.


steve_1
8/28/2008 7:50:52 PM

Thanks, guys, for the help and interest. Lori: On the raised bed gardening, that's going to be a project for next spring, and the other challenge we see with is it that we are near the biggest recreation area in the southern peninsula of Michigan so we're anticipating a major deer issue. Debbie: On the pond, I'm in the middle of researching it but my understanding is that an aerator mainly, well, aerates, so it's good for the fish but probably not an effective weed control issue. What was your purpose in getting the aerator, and let me know how it works. Cindy: Chelsea is just west of Ann Arbor, but in fact, we're more like neighbors than you imagined. Sue's mom lives near Glendal Corners, about 1/2 hour east of South Haven on 43. We get out to visit her pretty often and drive out to South Haven a couple of times every year. Maybe we could get together some time and see some of your work.


lori
8/27/2008 7:08:40 PM

Hi Steve! Welcome to the family! WOW, it sounds like you and your wife are going to be busy with all these projects! My husband, Jim and I, built raised bed garden boxes. We really like them. They make tending the garden so much easier because they put everything up on your level. We used 2x6 pine for the sides and ends, and then put 2x4's on the top as a cap to be able to actually sit on to rest while working in the garden. We made them 12 foot long and 3 foot wide. A nice width to be able to lean in over the boxes and easily reach everything. We also put a brace on the inside right in the center, at 6 foot, to help give them strength. We then lined the inside with a kind of rubber that I think was originally used for roofing material, but left the bottom open. The idea was to keep the ground and moisture from laying right against the side of the boxes so they wouldn't rot so quick, but with the bottom left open, they can still drain properly. We have 8 of these 12 foot boxes, and we are thinking about making more. If you're interested, I could email you pictures so you could have a better idea what they look like.


debbie_1
8/27/2008 1:06:12 PM

Welcome Steve & Sue! Looks like we are in similar situations lifestyle wise. Our only drawback is we can't move to our country home for a few more years (when the teens are all set with college), so we are learning in bits and pieces. My last blog post addressed installing a pond aerator - we will see how well it did when we head down there this weekend! (keeping our fingers crossed) Again Welcome and Enjoy! Debbie in Illinois :-)


cindy murphy
8/26/2008 6:27:36 PM

Welcome to the Grit community, Steve. We're practically neighbors. I think. Well, almost. Chelsea is mid-state, Ann Arborish? I'm to the west of you in South Haven. I'd be happy to offer help on native plantings when you and Sue are ready to tackle the project. Native planting suggestions are a huge part of my job at the nursery, and although my gardens are not comprised soley of plants native to Michigan, I do incorporate a lot into my own landscape, (see my Goldenrod blog, right next to your page here...a wonderful grow-anywhere native with a can't-be-beat long-lasting fall color). I look forward to reading more of your de-citification. Cindy