Thursday 29 March 2012

Rabbit Proof Fence

Although I'm worried my veg garden might be a little large its better to have too much space than not enough, despite some of the problems, like weeds, that will come with it.
Rabbit poo or "bumbles" as my wife calls them
One problem I'm hoping not to have to deal with too much is rabbit damage. Although I've not seen that many about yet (I've shot a couple with the air rifle) I know they're around, I can see the signs. I will try to keep their numbers down but the best solution is a good fence.
Staples holding the straining wire which in turn holds up the rabbit wire
 Every night over the last week or so I've been putting up a section of wire. I managed to finish it this week, but I've still got three gates to make and fit before its "rabbit proof" and then I need to add a top rail to make sure its stock (sheep) proof.
The fence finished - need to make some gates and maybe add a top rail to stock proof it
Then I can finish the chicken pen and start the pig pen!

Saturday 24 March 2012

Bye Bye Allotment

I made my last trip over to the old allotment today.
Its sad that I've got to leave (as now its too far away) as I really enjoyed the social side of it, but that did have it's downsides sometimes, you'd go down there with a list of jobs and get none of them done due to talking! The soil was terrible down there (heavy clay) and it would make doing any job a nightmare.
The last visit wasn't for sentimental reasons though, it was to remove as many plants as I possibly could for my new veg garden.
I went thinking there wasn't that many to take, but the list got longer and longer. In the end I removed globe artichokes, fennel, sea kale, angelica, a rose, comfrey, sage, sweet cicely, rhubarb, strawberries, mint, asparagus, some compost from the raised beds and some leeks for tea. The van was packed and the allotment plot looked quite bare as I drove away.
The one really surprising plant was the strawberries as I put in about 15 plants last year then didn't do anything with them, we didn't have a single strawberry off them but they ran rampant. Really rampant it turns out as when I dug them up there was over 75 plants rooted in a 4x4 raised bed.

This evening I managed to plant everything in (although the fence still isn't finished so open to rabbits) but I had to limit myself to 50 strawberry plants - I have a feeling I may have gone over the top as it is!

Sunday 18 March 2012

Many Hands Make Light Work

Especially when its your dads and brothers hands. They were both kind enough to give up their Sunday to help me get started on a bit of fencing. I was more than a little daunted by how much fencing I had to do around the veg and fruit garden, and I wasn't really sure where to start as I hadn't done much in the past.
Surrounded by family on a Sunday - what could be better
We decided to use posts that are first tanalized then dipped in creosote as although they cost more they last so much longer and I don't fancy fencing this again anytime soon! It was a hard day with lots of bashing with the post basher - I can barely lift my arms above my waist tonight they feel that heavy! 
Most of the fence posts are in now
By the end of the day we had got most of the posts in (although there's still the chicken pen to do) and a line of straining wire so I could see what to do on my own in the evenings this week.

Nice line from the chicken pen down the garden
Another tough Sunday but there's nothing else I'd rather be doing to get things ready for our smallholding! By doing this right now we'll save ourself lots of time in the future.

Friday 16 March 2012

A Hazel Coppice

At the bottom of our garden is an over stood hazel coppice. The only thing it was any good for is the squirrels, and there are far too many of them!
With it blocking light to the new fruit garden I decided it was best to take it down and hopefully I can use the resulting regrowth as bean poles and pea sticks in years to come. There was plenty of wood in it and I've only had a small half hour window every night this week, from when I get home to when it gets dark, to try to take it down without doing damage to anything else.
After (I've still got to take the stump lower to the ground)
Doing things in the evening like this gives me a good sense of achievement and frees up more time on the weekend for bigger jobs. I've just got to log up all the wood (and split the bigger bits) and do something with the pile of brash - I'm thinking chip it and use it as a mulch? I think with all the tidying up jobs done with the chainsaw this winter we might have enough firewood for next year, just got to think about planting things to continue the cycle - any ideas?

Sunday 11 March 2012

Cost Of The Good Life

By this I mean work!
A very busy Sunday.
New ericaceous raised bed
  • I started all my tomatoes and peppers off (late I know),
  • Planted courgettes and cucumbers, leeks and peas, (all under cover)
  • Cobbled together a plastic 4 tier greenhouse that should have been chucked away at the end of last year,
  • I made a large (10ft by 4ft) raised ericaceous raised bed out of 6x2, filled it and planted 4 blueberry bushes (I've had one of them in a pot for 9 years).
  • Planted 3 blackberry bushes by our fuel tank
  • Pruned all my Autumn raspberries (late again but they only went in last week)
  • Collected all the spare soil from where I'd been planting our orchard
  • Planted a small bit of rhubarb
  • Sorted out all my crop netting and tied it into bundles
Then dad turned up with the digger!
Sump removal with the digger
He kindly dug round the veg and fruit garden with a narrow bucket to make it easier to put the rabbit wire in, he also did a bit of stump removal whilst I removed all the stock fencing to be replaced with rabbit wire. In doing this job he's saved me so much digging and time and as spring is pretty much here I need all the time I can get.
Much easier to dig in the rabbit wire now!
We also dug round the area which will be the chicken pen (to make it more fox proof when the wire goes in). I also made a start on removing a large clump of hazel which I should be able to coppice for bean poles in the future and get some fire wood from it for next winter.
Feeling quite stiff tonight so I think I've got a good day in.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Saving Money

With our large mortgage we're always on the look out to save money and we've done pretty well this week.
First off I applied to EDF (an electrical company) to have free insulation fitted as part of a government incentive scheme. I applied a while ago and before they came to inspect I made sure that the loft was completely clear of all the old insulation as it was so full of rubbish and old mice nests that it was doing nothing anyway. Also by having a clear loft it meant they had to fit the full 300mm amount.
In the end they came on Thursday and filled the cavity walls with insulation, 300mm in the loft, insulated the loft hatch and fitted seals and catches, lagged the water tanks, lagged all the pipes and even fitted a chipboard walkway over the joists! All for nothing, I think its to help them off set their carbon footprint but it should save us loads of money in heating.
The second money saving thing I did this week was to concrete in two T shaped metal posts. These were acquired for nothing so all I had to buy was a bit of cement and stone (left over from a job) to concrete them in.
Spaced about 15m apart down the garden, with two bits of line between them, these will make a great washing line - and believe me with a new baby in the house we've got plenty of washing! Just need some sunshine now.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

First Bit Of Veg Planting

Well this year at least.
As we're giving up the alloment on the 1st of April, the broad beans I'd planted there aren't going to do us any good (I think the mice ate most of them anyway).
My wife raking in some compost - I should be able to get some muck this weekend
 So the first planting job on our new veg garden was to be some Aquadulce bean seeds under a large cloche/cold frame that I was bought for Christmas - this should keep the rabbits off them till we've got it fenced and give them a fighting start.
New Cloche/cold frame, the plastic was a little tight but it should give them a head start
It was a nice job on a sunny evening and the first bit of planting our 7 week old girl has done (it wont be her last) as well as marking the start of veg growing on our holding.
A little helping hand
 Next to go in are the onions and shallots as well as the parsnips later this week, just hope I haven't left them too late! I still haven't started my tomatos and peppers yet either - too much to do!

Sunday 4 March 2012

New Veg and Fruit Garden

Today was a busy day.
I was woken by my Dad telling me he was already on the road and to get moving. This day revolved around my dads 6610 John Deere Tractor and his skillful driving. To his credit he put in some serious miles today for me - His first stop was my old allotment to pick up our old shed.
How to move a shed
This 7'x7' shed was far too good to leave behind and dad was convinced that rather than take it apart it would be quicker for him to just pick it up with the pallet tines and strap it to the trailer to bring it over to our place. I was worried about the distance in a tractor but there was no convincing my dad otherwise. We went over board on the straps to hold it in place but it didn't move an inch (we didn't even empty it out!). by the time we'd got it on we were both wet to the skin as it was raining the whole time.
Strapped on and ready to go
When we got back to our holding the rain had stopped and we dropped off the shed and then set about rotavating an area I'd marked out for a veg and fruit garden.
Not a view everyone sees in their back garden
The rotavater made a great job of breaking down the ground - the soil here seems great, a little clay in it but not too much and not too sticky, creats a lovely seed bed.
Mum also came to lend a hand in the afternoon so together we managed to get in all the fruit bushes I'd lifted from the allotment and what I'd brought over the last few weeks.
A 20' row of raspberries and lots of other fruit bushes
In all a 20' row of autum raspberries, 5 summer raspberries, 3 gooseberries, 5 blackcurrant, 5 red current, 2 jostaberries and 1 gogiberry - any more suggestions would be useful (still got blue berries to put in.
The new view of our back garden - a little bigger now!
Really pleased with what we achieved today but I was completly tired out by the evening and it was nice to curl up in front of the fire and enjoy cuddles with my little daughter.
Nothing beas a cuddle with my girl at the end of the day though!

Saturday 3 March 2012

New Blog

I've decided that with the purchase of our smallholding to start a new blog.
My blog "Keeping My Roots" was about the journey of moving away from the farm but making sure I was still connected with that way of life. Now we have our own little bit of the countryside I thought it would be good to start again so people can follow our new journey.

The view of our back garden - this is all going to change!
In England we call a property with a few acres a smallholding, but I think this word has lost its original value. It used to describe a way of life where the land helped to support your family and provide, if not income then food. Now its more the middle classes having somewhere to keep a few horses. This is why I decided to use the American word homestead, as I think this still has the meaning of describing a place where your land supports your family.
The "homestead" in question is a 5 acre patch split into three fields with a semidetached 3 bed house sitting at the top of it. I'm under no illusions of all the books written in the 70's about self sufficiency- I will not be earning my living from this piece of land. We've had to have a killer mortgage to be able to live this way, but I will be using it to lessen our bills and improve our way of living, hopefully with the help of family and friends along the way.
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