Posted by: Bob | September 15, 2011

A Brand New Start

The new garden is nothing like the old garden. Where we used to have grass and plants and problems with rain and clay we now have concrete patios, monoblocked driveways and red ‘chuckies’ where you’d normally find a flower bed.

I honestly don’t know where to start.

We salvaged Erica’s six Strawberry plants from the old house before they changed the locks and somehow they have magically multiplied into 30 strawberry plants. Not bad going if you ask me. So my afternoon so far today has been replanting them into containers until such time as we have a plan for the garden. We also managed to salvage our cherry tree, a single raspberry cane and a couple of hosta rootstalks. I might need to go with my begging hat to my parents for any spare flowers they might have next year.

We’ve rebuilt the chicken coop at the highest, flattest part of the garden for our four new hens. We just need to work out if we are going to custom build a run for them or to extend the Omlet run by another few metres for when we’re not at home.

So yeah, back to square one almost!

The only bit of grass in the garden.

Coop and Red 'Chuckies'

Patio

Rear of driveway and the sheds

Behind the conservatory

As you can see there is a lot of space but it’s going to be awkward turning it into a garden with a veg patch and some flowers without putting everything in containers which we don’t want to do.

On the plus side that entire stretch of grass gets the sun almost the entire day so might make for a good spot for the veg patch and it keeps it out of the way of visitors.

Posted by: Bob | September 15, 2011

Wow…Life Got Pretty Hectic For A While!

I could regale you with sob stories regarding redundancy, repossessed homes and a winter so cold my chickens didn’t survive no matter what I tried to do to keep them warm. But I won’t.

In the last two years we opened our own craft boutique in Glasgow which took up way more time than we would have liked but it was good, I found out I could bake a cake or two, made loads of new friends and we’ve moved house.  I think it’s time to, as they say, draw a line and call this a brand new start.

Posted by: Bob | May 4, 2009

Build It And They Will Grow

This gardening malarky would be so much easier if we didn’t keep hens as well.

Due to the size of our garden our hens ‘share’ the bottom end with our raised beds, shed and greenhouse. This isn’t so bad as it just means we need to put mesh over the beds and hope for the best.

We decided long ago that this year would be our learning year to get things established and see what we could and couldn’t grow. In doing so it meant that I had to build new raised beds from the reclaimed wood we had in the garden and build a support for the mesh. This is where the experimental side of things came in. The idea was that of the four beds I would build on the hill each one would have a different style of support for the mesh to see which held up to the strains of keeping the chickens out. Unfortunately because of the the impending arrival of the new addition to the family I’ve only managed to get one finished and it’s mesh support leaves a lot to be desired.

First off I’ve built it too low. About the only thing I can grow in it without it trying to break out is lettuce. Secondly the height means if the chickens get on top of it the mesh stretches enough that it can reach the bed and they get free access to eat all the greens. Thirdly, and in my mind the most important one, the supports can easily take the weight of the hens and in turn allows them a jumping off point to get them up and over the fence around the turfed patio. A couple of days ago they devestated my cabbage and broccoli plants when a few hens sat on the mesh and pigged out.

This leads me on to my next experiment. I am going to build mini mesh polytunnels over each bed. It sounds simple enough and to be honest it is far simpler once I work out the maths. My only problem is that I don’t want to buy brand new plastic piping for it. It’s bad enough I’m using plastic, I can’t find a decent supply of willow anywhere, so what plastic I do use I’d really like to use reclaimed piping if I can. I’m struggling to track some of that down though.

Posted by: Bob | April 24, 2009

If I Had A Hammer…

We’re approximately five weeks away from the birth of our fourth child. This is causing some problems as we want the house to be perfect before she comes but we know that’s not going to happen in that time scale. Add to that Vonnie is having serious trouble with SPD again as well as pulling muscles in her back and neck which might make labour interesting so I haven’t actually been at work that much recently. I’m off every Thursday but this week I’ve actually only been in the office for one day!

What it does mean though is I’ve been able to take the kids into the garden and get some work done there.

For the past two years I’ve been trying to get my raised beds built and every year something comes up to stop that happening. Last year I had my health problems so I only managed to get the chicken coop built which left everything else still to do in the garden. We have a skips worth of general rubbish sitting in one corner, the old chicken run waiting to be pulled down in another corner, the patio to turf over and various fences to build as well as getting those those raised beds built.

So with the better weather we’ve had the kids out on what’s left of the patio whilst I fenced it off from the rest of the garden. All we need now is to paint it which will cause some problems as it needs to be done after the chickens go to bed. In fact that same problem has meant the fence at the bottom of our garden has never been built. Since we started keeping chickens I’ve actually just had two fence panels leaning against the back hedge to keep them from escaping into our neighbours garden but they ‘kindly’ cut the hedge right back thinking the panels were an actual fence. Twice this week I’ve been able to get work done after the chickens were put to bed so hopefully that will be sorted by tomorrow night. I managed to get the two fence post holes redug as I’d originally made them in the wrong place, line up the posts in their holes and get the supports nailed on and finally get the cement into the holes. Unfortunately I ran out of screws so I’ll need to pay B&Q a visit in the morning before finishing it off.

The raised beds have been started but their location has changed. Until about two weeks ago they were to be placed where we actually have all the rubbish but since losing the greenhouse to the weather and moving the shed and coop about we’ve decided to place the beds on the small hill we have in the garden.

IMG_8708-2

As you can see I have one built so far with another three going in alongside it. Then once that’s finished I can get the chicken run dismantled and the fruit trees/bushes can go in there along with another raised bed or two depending on how much wood I have left. In order to stop the chickens getting in at the veg in the beds I’ve put some pond netting over them using the supports I’ve built on either end to hold it up. I completely forgot that old saying of ‘measure twice and cut once’ though when building the supports as they should have been about two inches shorter that they actually are which accounts for them looking as though they are about to fall over. They are sturdy enough for me to sit on them without fear of breaking them though. So far I’ve got the cabbage, broccoli and lettuce in there but I know the broccoli will be to big for the low net ‘roof’ so I may need to rehome them once I build the other beds.

As for the cat on the bed… I wasn’t even aware he was there until I uploaded it to Flickr! That Fitz is a sneaky one.

Posted by: Bob | April 17, 2009

“The Suck Zone”

We were doing so well!

There I was standing in the kitchen making lunch for the kids when the wind picked up and I heard the the greenhouse flap. I never really though anything of it as not only was the frame and cover pegged down but we also had guy ropes attached and anchored well to give it some extra stability. Not only that but the frame had a kitchen unit we had spare from the kitchen weighing it down on one end that we had been using as shelves and on the other end I’d been keeping bales straw and wood shavings. Basically it shouldn’t have been touched by the wind.

by rachel_r on Flickr

by rachel_r on Flickr

At this point I should probably point out that it was a metal pole/plastic joint/plastic cover style greenhouse so it wasn’t *that* expensive but that’s not the point. When I had been building it two of the joins cracked or snapped and I had to superglue them and splint them up with masking tape.

So back in the kitchen I looked out the window I looked out the window to see the middle joints at the front door had gave way and the guy ropes and cover were flapping about like mad. I knew if I didn’t get out there all the seedlings we had would be ruined but by the time I got my shoes on and made it out into the garden the greenhouse was gone leaving a trail of destruction behind it. The seedlings were all over the garden and the straw and sawdust were everywhere.

The corner of my garden where the greenhouse originally was is surrounded on two sides by eight foot high concrete walls and the greenhouse had been blown up and over them. By the time I got out into the street it was half way up the hill and moving towards the main road. After picking up all the stray poles and the shattered joints do you know what the funny thing was? The only two joints that were still in one piece were the two that I had to glue. In fact the poles that had been on those joints were deformed when I had a look at them from where they were pulled.

So you could say we’ve had a stroke of bad luck. From the trays of seedlings we had I managed to save maybe 20 of them. I’m just hoping it’s not to late to replace the ones we’ve lost.

Posted by: Vonnie | January 19, 2009

It’s been a while

I apologise for our radio silence, things at our end have been a little crazy over the past few months!

We woke up on Friday morning to the dulcet tones of one of the cockerels showing off his newly-learned trick of crowing. Being that it’s still dark until lunchtime, it was 8.30am and so shouldn’t have woken the neighbours up but still – if one is crowing then the rest are going to follow suit quickly so Bob dispatched two of them (the crower and the biggest) on Saturday morning and we had one for dinner last night.

It’s an interesting experience. This bird really tasted different to a chicken you’d get in a supermarket and whether that’s my ex-vegetarian or just the part of me that’s been controlled by capitalism over the years, I find it quite difficult to eat. I couldn’t touch the dark meat although the white meat was nice enough – there’s a lot more flavour to it. The kids wolfed it down.

I think we have five cockerels left, could be wrong (I can’t see their pen from here) and I think that although it’s been a valuable experience we probably won’t go down the route of raising more table birds in the future. The space could be better utilised (in my opinion) for veg and fruit plots which pricewise will save us more money in the long run. By the time we tot up the feed prices we’re probably spending more per bird than we would buying a free ranger but there’s the benefit of knowing exactly where our food came from and what it consumed etc. So, once the last of the cockerels is done the run will be coming down and we’ll be planting a couple of trees (pear, apple, cherry) and some fruit bushes that we’ve had sitting around for a while. We’ll probably start growing seeds at the end of the month so that we have time to build the raised beds in time for the last frost.

Posted by: Bob | September 19, 2008

Washed Away

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. We’ve had a rough old time of it these last few months and to be honest the last thing on our minds was sitting down in front of the computer and blogging about it. Things are starting to look up though.

We had great plans for our garden. We had lots of plans. Then I was hit with chest pains and the garden took a back seat for a while. So much so we’ve started getting a delivery of organic veg from a farm a couple of hours drive away every two weeks to cover what we had planned to grow ourselves.

Aside from the fox attack which took three of our hens we’ve had one chicken drop dead almost overnight and one of our ‘chicks’ was crushed in the hen house as well. I call it a chick but it was a fair size and a good age as well. I never actually get over calling them chicks as we have a favarolle that I still refer to as a chick and its the biggest hen we have! We picked up a few meat birds as well from our friend which have taken up residence in the run alongside two turkeys. The other hens have moved into their new coop which sits out in the main garden. They free-range during the day so don’t actually ever use the run any more.

My tomatoes and cucumber plants died whilst we were on holiday and my one remaining jalapeño plant is currently growing its fruits but has just been infested with aphids overnight. I need to sort that one out sharpish. My potato buckets have came to nothing. Between the chickens eating the leaves and the very heavy rain we’ve received these last few months they are all but dead. Even our bramble bush has not produced much in the way of fruit this year. In fact the only harvest we had that was successful was from our rhubarb plants. We’ve got a cupboard full of jam now thanks to that harvest.

The plant beds that I was meant to dig over the summer so that the ground was ready for next spring have yet to be planned out never mind dug. Between the weather and my health it just hasn’t happened yet. I have found through talking to some people that my hopes of getting an allotment might not be as bad as I’d heard. There is a waiting list of around 1100 people looking for an allotment with about 80 plots. Going on the councils figures they say thats a waiting time of about 30 years but after talking to a few allotment owners they say the turnover of plots is quite fast at the moment. Apparently it may only take two years to get one rather than the decades I first feared.

Anyway I’ll get back to work and we’ll see how things go with updating this place more in the future.

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