Sunday, 29 March 2009


My rhubarb forcer is working, although this rhubarb hasn’t been in that long it has already started making new crowns so I thought I’d put the forcer over one of them. Not on quite the scale as what some of the farms do in the village where they us upturned 45 gallon oil drums to cover their crop! And theirs is twice the size of mine as you can see in the picture below.

Birthday Weekend

I turned 26 yesterday, can’t believe how fast time has gone! But I did get loads of presents!
My fiancĂ© brought me some DVDs, a new pair of trainers (she’s fed up as I’ve had my last pair 7 years and glued them together 4 times!) and many other things. My brother and sister both brought me some nice gifts and it was nice of Dave to have thought so far ahead as he’s been in South America a month now.

My Mum and Dad concentrated on more gardening type gifts. I got a red gooseberry bush (as my other has died), a strawberry plant, plant labels, lots of books on smallholding and old crafts and a nice sized garden bench to go in the vegetable garden so I can sit and watch the chickens in the summer.

Another job I did this weekend, besides working slowly on cladding the shed, was to make a very cheap cloche out of a water cooler bottle cut in two (not sure what pow wow would think of this), I’m using this to protect my young lettuce plants from the cold, should do the job just as well and it didn't cost £10!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

A busy day today

Managed to finish the new chicken coop, which the hens seem to love, although I had to catch them to put them to bed – I’m sure they’ll learn where they’ve got to go soon enough! Tried to get them up the ladder by leaving corn on each step, seemed to work as they were in and out all day but couldn't do it in the dark! Really pleased with the coop and pen, their old one is now sitting empty for a while and I’ve promised not to get anything else until I’ve started my new job and got used to it!
Claire sent off for some seeds from Blue Peter to encourage bees so I’ve planted a little wild flower boarder next to the chicken pen with these (as well as adding some poppy seeds) and made a “bee hotel” out of bamboo to give them somewhere to live.
We went for a lovely walk tonight just as it was getting dark, walked up to the river past all the commercial vegetable gardens, its really interesting seeing how they do it on a bigger scale.

Advanced Fruit Tree Pruning Course

I had a great day yesterday on the second part of the course that I took in November last year.
This course was nearly all hands on as we’d done the theory on the course before. The trees were older as well, meaning we were doing tree renovation rather than designing how a tree will grow. When doing this it nearly always means cutting big limbs off, and sometimes over a course of two or three years you take the tree right back down to a stump to start its structure again.

How to train trees in their different forms was also covered in more detail (this is what I'll be trying to do in my garden) and we got to see behind the sences at a kitchen garden thats currently being renovated with rows of different shaped trees being grown.

We also learned to tell different tree problems like canker and woolly aphid (although the damage can look similar) and when these problems occur. Apparently becides the varitey just mentioned you can eat aphids and they taste sweet - I'll be trying this in the summer! Below is a picture of wooly aphid damage - looks just like canker.

This was another brilliant day run by the RHS and I’m going to book myself on their summer pruning course to finish my learning of this subject as well as booking up their cider making course (although I’ve made cider in the past, it sounds like another fun day).

Saturday, 7 March 2009

New coop

Well I’ve started using the shed before it’s finished! I’ve been making a new coop for the chickens and the shed was the perfect place out of the wind to make it. So far today I’ve managed to make the framework up (all with halving joints) and stain it as the timber wasn’t treated. I made something similar for my mum a few years ago and the design seemed to work well. As it raised off the ground this stops rats from making a home under it, as well as providing the chickens with somewhere to shelter in bad weather and keep their food dry. I should have it finished by the end of the weekend, but I probably won’t move them into it just yet, I might just put it in their pen so they get used to it first. I’m also making it so it’s flat pack for when we move in a few years time.
I have planted my tomatoes, peppers, basil and chilli seeds today, in my windowsill propagator. I’ve probably planted far too many different varieties – I always get carried away!
I’m trying to get as much done as possible in the next couple of weekends as I’m starting a new job in a few weeks time on a massive tower block with an hours drive either side of working from 7 till 6 in the middle of Birmingham, I’m looking forward to the work as it will be interesting but the hours scare me. Hopefully it will mean we can save a bit more money and it means getting our own smallholding will be that much closer.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Down on the farm

My brother and his girlfriend have just gone off on their travels on the weekend just gone so we went to my parent’s farm to see them off. they're off for 4 months around South America so we’re all quite jealous. Other than that it was nice to go back and feed the sheep and see the lambs. Really missing the lambing season this year, doesn’t seem right not having to drag yourself from a warm house to count how many have died overnight! Dad has lambed outside this year for the first time in as long as I can remember, but he down to about 30 sheep now so its not the big job that it once was. Also popped across to the neighbours farm to have a look at the cattle and pick up dads digger that been on hire. I always love looking around other peoples farms, every one is so different, really hope one day we can make our mark on one! Getting back home I’ve planted some snowdrops in the (now chicken free) lawn area (we dug them up from where a drain is going on the farm) and my mushroom kit has finally worked – fried mushrooms for tea (not very many though)!