Sunday, 25 April 2010

Starting on the allotment

Well I've finally made a start on the allotment! Yesterday mum came round and gave me a hand to mark out the paths and the different beds for crop rotation, the fruit area and an area for a shed and compost bins (all marked with blue string).
Although its been rotovated twice the soil it still like concrete and takes a lot of digging, no good for sowing seeds directly into the ground just yet! We did manage to plant a few things though.
A nice long 15ft row of raspberries went in (pinched from mums garden), along with rhubarb, a gooseberry bush and some comfrey. Today we also managed to put in the broad beans I'd been growing in pots and net them over to protect them from pigeons and rabbits. The main trouble, besides the rock hard soil, is the lack of water on site, I've been taking a large drum of water every time I go down but it doesn't go very far!

I've also put in four raised beds, these are quick fix pallet collars that I've stained up, but they look nice and they will help me grow root crops until I get the soil sorted out (then they can be used to grow asparagus next year). My plan to get parsnips and carrots in now is to import some soil (there's some nice soil at the farm) and mix it with a little compost along with fish, blood and bone. At least then I'll have some for Christmas dinner!

Next weekend I'm thinking about fencing the whole plot with rabbit wire as everyone else seems to be doing it and there seems to be a lot of wildlife.

Charcoal Success

The Second burn produced a bucket full of charcoal

The third burn produced a big bag full of charcoal

Well it took us four "burns" in total but we can now produce a decent amount of charcoal from a 45 gallon oil drum. The trick is to leave it longer than you think and when it is burning really hot put the lid on but wedged open a bit, leaving the air holes open for about 15 minutes till the smoke changes colour. Then seal it up and don't open it too soon (we opened ours the next morning and I realised that some was still on fire in the box).

We had a BBQ last night and it burnt really well (with no smoke) so I was quite pleased. Dave's on about selling it, but it is quite labour intensive to make, we'll sell some and see if we can make any money from it.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Trying to make Charcoal

My brother is off his usual work this week and instead splitting some firewood to sell. As he's up the field all day we thought it would be good to try and make some charcoal.

We modified a 45 gallon oil drum so it had air holes in the bottom and made sure that the lid would fit. We then started a fire in the bottom and quickly stacked the wood inside letting the fire build up. Once it was going well we sealed the top and the air holes at the bottom using soil and let the drum cool down.

For our first attempt we made a little tiny bit of charcoal and some warm logs. Reading a few sites on the internet we need to leave the bottom holes open longer and let the fire build up more in the first place. I'm going to get to the farm early tomorrow so we can try again.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Peak District and gardening

Last weekend we went to the peak district for a couple of days and really we enjoyed ourselves with a nice long walk and a stay in Bakewell. We finish the trip off with a visit to Chatsworth House, which is beautiful (although I much preferred the kitchen garden with rows of sea kale being forced than the house).
This last visit was slightly marred as we called into their famous "farm" shop on the way home. The first two products that we saw were rhubarb and asparagus, both available and in season now (although asparagus is difficult to get hold of), the first was from Holland and the second from Mexico. I turned into an old man the second I got home and wrote a letter of complaint!
This weekend has been spent in the garden planting every seed in sight and longing for the allotment to be rotovated (I put my name down to have it rotovated and now I just seem to be waiting and unable to do anything else, the soil in like concrete at the moment and the spade wont go in!). All my little seedlings are looking healthy and I've even enjoyed the fruits of my labours by eating some rhubarb I forced in the (old) shed, its so sweet.
I did venture out of the garden to a car boot sale to buy another set of tools for the allotment and managed to buy a fork, dutch hoe and a draw hoe (£7 total). The draw hoe is beautifully made (although the handle has woodworm - a replacement from Dave's shavehorse is needed I think) and is a proper old fashioned, made in England tool, this wont be going to the allotment its too nice.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Allotment and Rain

I've been earing up for this weekend for ages so its been somewhat of a let down.
On wednesday night we went to Honeyborne to sign up for our new allotment along with 40 other people and paid our yearly fee of £20. We were given, in exchange, a long list of rules (more donts than Do's) and a 15m by 10m patch of land in the village of Honeyborne. This allotment is totally new so I wasnt sure what to expect but my hopes were high for at least some grass and resonable soil.
Today (Friday) was the first day I could get down there and I invited my Mum along so we could look at the site, do a little planning and marking out and hopefully aome planting of the fruit bushes I've got sat in pots. Wrong.
Today it hasn't stopped raining for more than 5 minutes and when we went down to see the allotment we were the only people in a field of mud and water. I say mud but it is mostly clay.
I took my spade so I could see what it was like and I could only get it in to half a spades depth, the clay was that thick and strong. It was raining so hard we had to come back and warm ourselves with some fish and chips and decided that planning was best done on paper. I had used a compass to find out which way north was so now a bit of arm chair gardening is called for!
One thing I do need to get is a shed for my allotment (not another shed!) to store gardening tools in but I dont really want to spend any money down there, I might try freecycle unless anyone has got one they're taking down?