Practical Dreams for 2021

I’ve been passing my time in quarantine planning projects & researching heirloom apples

I’m a bit of a dreamer. This might not surprise you, since you subscribe to this newsletter about a decrepit cabin I bought in rural New York. But hey, dreams do come true. Especially if you work at ‘em. (Oh, and thanks for subscribing)

I’ve been passing my time in quarantine dreaming up project plans and researching heirloom apples. As I look forward to 2021, I’m setting some ambitious but realistic goals for the West Bluff Food Forest. I plan to spend a longer time out in New York and can get some larger projects done. Here they are.

Sand & Stain the Cabin

In December 2020, I got most of the rotten logs replaced. Up next is some long overdue maintenance. Log cabins require special treatment. Sealing and staining the logs protects them from moisture and allows for seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood. It seems like the last coat of paint was 10 years ago.

The right way to do it is to sand down all the logs to remove their current coat. Then I’ll stain everything and the new logs will blend right in. It’ll still be a dark brown most likely. I reckon that’s about a full week of work, with some help.

Other Modest Improvements

The cabin needs some new doors. My parents saved the original front door and sliding glass door from Nana and Pop’s house. Those will do nicely.

Also, I’m enlisting my brother to build some stairs to get in both doors. He built a hefty ramp into the shed last summer and it works great. He’s picked up woodworking this year and I’m grateful for that.

Inside the cabin, I want to remove the nails, staples, and insulation on the walls. Then sand down the interior logs to a new, nicer finish, hopefully removing some of the mouse stains along the way.


Wire the Cabin & Get Power Turned on.

Now this one’s a hoot. The real estate listing said there was an electric connection which is.. technically… not false? There is a wire going from the power lines into the cabin, but there’s no meter and no number. When I called the power company, they said they didn’t know my address.

It seems like there’s been no power since the 90s. I’ll treat it like a brand new connection and see what they say when they show up. For that, I’ve got to rewire the interior and get it approved.

When I first got the cabin, it was wired with a circuit breaker, some outlets and a few light sockets. Some wires were stripped so we decided to be safe and remove it all when gutting the place. All that’s left now is the wire from the electrical pole and the circuit breaker. So we’ll wire everything anew.

I’ve got some exciting ideas for the layout of the cabin kitchen, the living room and a sleeping loft. I’ll take those into account when wiring for appliances, outlets, and light sockets. And I’ll share those plans when they’re more tangible, I promise.

With the help of my uncle, who is a certified electrician, I think we can do almost everything. I’ll leave it to a professional to connect everything to the circuit breaker. Then, hopefully, we’ll get power turned on!

Clear Orchard Area & Plant Cover Crops

The orchard is also taking shape but we’re about 7 years out from eating an apple. Oh, how sweet those apples will be! There is lots of work required to build a sustainable food forest. The only soil I have now is a thick clay and it’s covered by wild thicket.

I’ve been swinging a scythe in the summers, but that isn’t the smartest use of my time. It would be more beneficial to clear the land in the spring before everything has a chance to grow. Duh. That took me two years to figure out. More likely, I’ll rent a bush hog and just get to clearing it all.

Once it’s clear of blackberries and thickets, I’ll spend at least a year building a rich, living soil. Before planting any trees, I’ll lay down paper or cardboard to block light from existing seeds and roots in the soil. Then I’ll layer leaves, wood chips, compost on top. This method is called sheet mulching. It builds a deep topsoil relatively quickly.

On top of that, I’ll plant cover crops. I’ll grow clover for nitrogen and daikon radishes to break into the clay soil below the mulch. I’ll also plant comfrey, which makes a good green mulch for trees and acts as a rhizome barrier along the edges of the eventual orchard. If all goes well, I’ll be planting the first fruit trees in 2022 and they’ll bear fruit by 2027.

Working Together

I must also say how grateful I am to have a family that supports this crazy dream. I’ve hauled a rented mower out of a ditch with my dad, swung scythes with my brothers, fought off bees with my sister-in-law and scrubbed mouse poop with my mom.

Sadly, I do not think this is the summer to invite everyone out to work and play on the land. Yes, that includes you, dear reader; Your invite is coming! We’re cutting it close with the vaccine distribution and whatnot.

But I am working towards this dream of throwing a dinner party, cooking in the cabin with locally grown food, drinking beer by the fire pit and having everyone sleep over in a hodgepodge of couches, tents, hammocks and air mattresses. That day will come and, after the year we had, that dream is keeping me pointed in the right direction.

Won’t you dream with me?

Hey! If you’re new here, this is West Bluff Food Forest. I'm building a permaculture orchard and home in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I write about the lessons I'm learning and update you along the way.

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