Sunday, 24 January 2010

Dave’s Climbing hole

This is a bit random.
I’ve been putting the floor in the barn/wood shed joined to the house at the farm this week with my brother. The only trouble was when the floor goes in it ruins Dave’s climbing gym where he trains most nights.

Mum and Dad are both big softies so when I suggested we make him an area in the floor to carry on training they agreed, but it did involve quite a bit of extra work.

Once we'd framed out the loft hatch and the cimbing hole with the carcassing timber we completed putting all the floor boards down (this made it easier to complete the frame around the hole as well).
We lined the hole with fair faced WBP ply so it looked better than bare timber. The hole is over twice the depth of the floor and allows plenty of space for his head.

Dave then added his climbing holds and started to show off.

My spoilt little brother, playing in his climbing hole. Maybe I should copyright it!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Weird week

Last week was an odd one. Couldn’t go to the farm for a couple of days because of the snow, I had a rubbish weekend and some really bad news, but I wont go into that here. The days I managed to go to work was the best bit for a change, I’ve got to admit its quite fun working for dad – the drive isn’t though (its not in a tractor!) I managed to do lots of little jobs, like putting tin up the side of some of the barns and sealing them up, also feeding the sheep (which aren’t ours) hay as they can’t get to the grass. On Firday I went to a farm sale to have a look and to try and take some photos for an article I’ve written, but it was far too wet and rainy. decided that my boots aren't waterproof as my socks looked like they had just come out of the wash.
Today has been good fun as I’ve been working with my brother putting a floor above the wood shed, I really enjoy working with him and I love getting my hands dirty again – the more time I spend away from management the more I keep thinking I can’t go back to it!I do wish some divine inspiration would hit me on what job I should do next!
Any ideas?

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Time to warm up

Things are pretty cold at the moment and all covered over so today I cleared an area on the lawn and up some fruit and nuts on it for the birds. The blackbirds had the bits of apple away in minutes. My chickens enjoyed having some of their pen cleared, as well as some cut up spouts for them to peck at. We also needed some warming up so I decided to cook one of my childhood favourites – Jam Roly Poly. It’s really easy to make, just add 8oz of self raising flour, 3 oz of suet & a pinch of salt to a bowl. Mix it all with a bit of water, roll it out about 5mm thick and then spread loads of homemade jam on it. Roll it up and pop it in the oven for 40 minutes – Lovely & stodgy! Snuggled on the sofa with full bellies I think I ruined the moment by wanting to watch a DVD my Dad had lent me on sheep farming in New Zealand. This was called “Sheep Station NZ” and I’m sure I enjoyed it more than Claire but it was really good. Farming over there is so different to what we’re used to. It makes keeping 300 sheep, like we used to, seem like a little hobby! These farms are huge, some having up to 40,000 sheep with over 30 sheep dogs; this was as well as rounding them up in helicopters and controlling wild pigs and goats everyday.
I went backpacking to NZ when I was 19 and loved it, I only really went to the toruisty places but watching this DVD really makes me want to go back and experience work and how they do things (rather than drink), the trouble is I’m not sure I’d come back (they've got so much space)!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Heavy duty shelves

Well I’m not going to talk about the snow (I think everyone else has done that) but I did have some time on my hands yesterday so I though it was time I built some heavy duty shelves to house my power tools and other bits and pieces.

Lately I’ve been feeling very disorganised with my tools and I’m going against what I was taught when I was an apprentice:
“A place for everything and everything in its place”
It was important then as I could have been on five different sites in a week and loosing tools cost money and time. In five years of being a site carpenter I never lost a tool – now I’ve not lost any but I can’t find them either!

When I lived at the farm I used to have a small workshop with a set of shelves next to the door, this used to hold all my usual power tools and made them easy to load into the van. This is what I’ve made for my workshop to do the same type of job.

I started by working out the height of the shelves to make sure that the power tool boxes would fit and my tool box that contains my hand tools (which is very heavy) would fit underneath. I also wanted to make sure it could house some stacking boxes to put all my none carpentry items in (electric, plumbing and painting stuff but organised so I can find things).

I decided to build it almost to the door (about 1.1m) leaving enough room to hang a coat on the end. The height would be almost to the ceiling but with enough room to store boxes of nails and tubs of glue. Cutting the 4 timber posts to length I then marked out the ‘housing’ cuts. I used my mitre saw to trench these out, but you could easily do it with a saw, making lots of cuts and then removing the waste with a chisel. The housing joints mean that the shelves can take a lot more weight as they’re not reliant on mechanical fixings.The cross-rails then just have to be cut to length and knocked into the housing joints. I’ve decided not to any glue as the temperature is so low it won’t work very well and I might want to take them apart when its time to move on, so I just used 50mm screw. (The screws I used were self cutting but if you’re using cheaper screws you might have to drill a pilot hole first to stop the wood splitting)With two ‘H’ frame assembled I then needed to connect them up with more rails, I wanted the shelves to be 500mm deep so I took the depth of the two frames off that measurement and cut the rails to length. To make sure they held the frames nice and solidly I notched these rails around the post, they won’t be taking much weight so they’re just screwed into the posts.For the shelves I used some 9.5mm ply I had left over from cladding the inside walls of my shed. (The items I’m storing span the whole width of the shelf so the ply isn’t important, if it was smaller, heavier items I’d use thicker ply.) I notched this around the posts and fixed it down using 25mm screwsAlthough the shelves are very stable I still fixed them back to the wall before I filled them up.

10 seconds after I'd put them up the shelves were full. I think I might have to build some more!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

No rabbits for tea

Well today hasn't really gone as planned.
My brother and I worked all day clearing out the old wood shed ready to put the floor in tomorrow but with the snow I almost didn't get here, it was falling thick and fast and the lane up to the farm was like a sheet of glass.
The talkabout Victorian kitchen gardens that was ment to be held tonight has been cancelled as the speaker can't get to the village hall where it was meant to be held. I'm really disappointed as I was looking forward to that so I just hope it's put on later in the year.
In the end Dave and I just went shooting (as the picture shows I have a terrible habit of dressing like a hill-billy!). I think we both knew we weren't going to see anything as it was snowing quite heavily and any animal with some sense would be tucked up in their burrow. It was nice to go for a walk in the snow though. The animals had obviously been busy as there were tracks everywhere and we both enjoy trying to figure out what had been going on, we even found where a fox had been stalking some rabbits. I hope he had more luck than us!Forecast is more snow in the night so I don't know if I'll be getting home tomorrow night either.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Missing Sheep

I never, ever, thought I’d say this.
But for the last few years around this time I always seem a little restless in the evenings, kicking my heels and not knowing what is wrong with me. Last year I worked it out and it turns out that I miss the one job that I used to moan most about!
Even though (with my “semi-employed” status) I’m back on the farm on week days, it doesn’t feel the same without the sheep going crazy, thinking their going to get fed every time you walk near the shed.
We had, at one point, about 300 sheep on the farm. For as long as I can remember I’ve always helped with the sheep but lambing was the bit that took the most time and caused the most stress. Everyday was the start of a massive list of chores that had to be completed only to be redone the next day. When I was at school we used to feed twice a day and I used to help both times, sometimes getting changed out of my overalls in the school car park. Luckily in a rural community smelling of sheep isn’t the worst thing you can smell of!When I started working we switched to feeding at night only, just chucking the sheep some hay in the morning to give them something to chew. I used to get home on a cold winter night after spending far too long on a cold (and probably wet) building site, warm myself up for half and hour then go and feed the sheep with Dad. This would take upwards of an hour but sometimes a lot more if we had a ewe on lambing, a lamb that wouldn’t suck or a ewe that wouldn’t “take”.
When I was doing this I didn’t realise how much Dad was doing it for me as much as the farm, because when I left home and moved 50 miles away he gradually got rid of all the sheep over a couple of years.
Now two years later I still think this is a little sad, with no sheep of our own left but he seems so much happier for it and mum no longer has to suffer the January and February depression that used to accompany lambing.
He’s much happier sticking to growing crops and selling machinery, now his business is expanding fast with two full time employees and my brother part time, he’s much happier talking to people than sheep. And less likely to find one of them has drowned in a water bucket over night (hope I’m not tempting fate here!).
Me on the other hand, I forever long to live in the past, where keeping sheep would earn you a decent living and to start your own farm you didn’t have to be a retired judge with ambitions of having a pony!
I really do love the upbringing I had, bottle feeding pet lambs, watching lambs race round the pen, the quiet that falls in the barn after the sheep have been fed. I hope that when I have children I can give them some of the same type of memories that I have and hopefully they can learn the work and effort that’s needed to raise animals for meat ad learn to enjoy the process.
Anyway enough of my ponderings. Tomorrow I’m back on the farm looking at putting an upper floor in the wood shed, I’m going to stay over as in the evening I’m going to an extremely uncool meeting at my mums gardening club about Victorian walled gardens (of which I am a little obsessed). Then I might go for a little spot of rabbit shooting with my brother so I can do a rabbit stew for Claire and I in our new slow cooker.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Golden Oyster Mushrooms (Hopefully)

With the weather being as cold as it is there isn’t really much I can grow at the moment. Inside there is no such weather restraints so I thought I’d have a go at growing some mushrooms.
I got given some Golden Oyster Mushrooms spawn for Christmas and its only growing condition is that it needs to be grown at room temperature - the spare room isn’t very full at the moment so I thought that would be the ideal place!

First of all I sterilised the straw by pouring a kettle full of boiling water over each bag (I wanted bigger bags but this was all I could find, although it’s big enough to see if it will work) and then seal the tops and left for two hours. This stops the straw being contaminated by any other fungi.

While I waited a couple of hours for it to cool, I left my rather ill wife at home and went for a nice long walk to the next village and back, using different footpaths. I really enjoyed it, but a couple of the fields were so muddy my boots were twice the size by the end!
When I returned the bags had cooled down so I tipped out the excess water (leaving just a little water in the bottom to keep it moist) and then I added the spawn to the bags. The spawn is carried on dried cereal grains and although the pack says to add it all I just put about a teaspoon in each (it’s like yeast and so long as there is a bit it will grow but it will just take a little longer to multiply). I then tied the bags again and shook them up to spread the spawn. Placed near to a radiator they should have the heat they need (but not too much) with a couple of small holes in the top to allow it to breathe.

Happy New Year

Well I’ve recovered from the hi-jinks of new years and spending the night in a 6ft yellow duck outfit was not the best idea ever! Good fun though, and it was nice as my sister came up and had fun with us all in my friends Terry’s pub.2009 definitely had its ups and down. I got married and had the best day ever, travelled to Thailand on our honeymoon, had a great Christmas and New Year with family and friends.
On the downside I worked on a job I hated for most of the year whilst commuting and as a result had no free time to do the things I liked.
This year I’m determined to find a job I enjoy, not too far from home and spend more time doing what I enjoy.I’m not one for setting New Years resolutions but I do like to set aims for myself, even though they might seem a bit daft to some people:

Find a job I like
Get my 5th Cup Yellow Sash in Kung Fu
Take part in a 10km run and run the whole way
Grow more fruit and veg (I’ve applied for an allotment in a local village so I should be able to grow on a bigger scale)
Hatch out some Quails
Grow lots of different mushrooms (I’m always saying I’ll do it and never get round to it)
Pass my trailer test (my brother booked me on it so now I’ve got to do it!)
Do all I can to improve my survival skills
Write a lot more

I'm sure this list will get longer.