Monday 31 December 2012


My mother is notoriously difficult to buy for So this year I decided to buy her something completely different.
A grafting course.
And I couldn't let her go on it alone, that just wouldn't be right, so I booked myself a place on the course as well. We both have an interest in apple trees (well I think mine boarders on obsession) and we've always said we'd love to learn to graft our own, so I thought this course would be ideal. The only downside is we've got to wait until the 3rd of March! Still I'm sure it will soon be here.
Grafting knife
 In the meantime I decided to sharpen up my grafting knife (my mother bought this for me a few years ago as a present so hopefully I'll soon be able to use it) as there is little else I can do in this weather without fear of sinking into the mud as a permanent feature in the garden.
Water stone
I have a bit of an obsession with keeping things sharp, probably because I'm a carpenter and it makes my job much easier if every tool has an edge like a razor. But I decided to try some waters stones I bought a few years ago for this, instead of my usual oil stones.
Holding the knife at a slight angle to polish bevel onto it
 The stone worked really well, the course side altered the bevel in no time - I've kept this knife with a single bevel much like a chisel edge as I've read that's what a lot of the old time grafters used to use. Then the fine side polished a really sharp edge onto it.
Nice and sharp - cutting wood
 Once I stropped it it would cut fine shavings off a piece of wood no trouble
The cutting edge
I'm really looking forward to this course as it's something I've always wanted to learn. As a bonus it says on the course that we get to take two apple trees home with us that we've grafted, so that should add to my collection!

Friday 28 December 2012

More Books!

Everyone gave me too many presents again this year (although I'm not complaining). Normally I always get quite a few books as it's no secret that I love reading and this year was no exception.
 My mother-in-law bought me the River Cottage hand book set, with 10 books covering a large number of subjects. I've already got two out of the ten (mushrooms and hedgerow) but its good to have the whole set. What I like about them is they're not too basic, I struggle now with any general books as I find I'm just reading the same things over and over and now have to buy really specific books to learn anymore on a subject.
These have also got lots of nice recipes in the back (globe artichoke humous anyone?) and tend to cover a few plants (or herbs etc) in detail rather than just touching on every one briefly. There's also a couple of books on subjects I probgably wouldn't have brought but are nice to have like bread making and cakes.
My daughter got me (although she may have had some help with this one) the wartime farm book. We've been watching the series and really enjoying it so it's nice to have the companion book. It's always amazing what you can pick up from these old time practises and I love all the old posters and leaflets it's got printed in there, although some of them are a bit small. Should make a nice read.
What did everyone else get?

Sunday 23 December 2012

A Year Ago Today...

Was our first full day here.
It was the day after moving house, Claire was 8 months pregant, our life was in hundreds of boxes all over the house and we were both feeling shattered.
It's been a great first year here.
We've had our first child
Planted a garden
Moved some sheds
Put up some fencing
Planted some fruit trees
Cut down a couple of trees
Planted some more trees
Sold a house
Made a bigger drive
Got some chickens
Made some hay
Had a great place to work for most of the year
Got some more chickens
Created things at work I'm really proud of
Planned for next year

And most importantly spent lots of time together as a family
I've no idea what the next 12 months will bring but if they're half as good as this year then I'll be happy!
Have a good Christmas everyone!

Thursday 20 December 2012

A Little Self Reliance

We woke up on Tuesday morning and all we could smell was heating oil. The boiler was leaking.
Not great.
I didn't have time to deal with it then so I turned everything off and went to work hoping there wouldn't be a massive oil slick when I got home.
When I got back I went about finding the problem, cleaning off all the oil and then letting it leak again. I found the problem straight away, someone in the past had used a hydrolic pipe to from the filter to the boiler instead of the proper braided pipe, this had worn through and oil was starting to weep onto the floor of the boiler.
My dad picked up a new pipe for me the next day and I fitted it and had it working again that night. The pipe cost £5.01 but I'm sure if I got a plumber out it would have been over £100 to have the problem sorted, with call out fees and the like.
I can never understand how people that can't do things for themselves afford to live, that said I'm lucky this was an easy problem and one I could manage.

Monday 17 December 2012

Apple Trees Have Arrived

My apple trees arrived last week. Now I'm sure it will be obvious to anyone who reads my blogs that I wasn't ready for them.
My delivery - 27 trees in here
 I had planned just to heel them in. Trouble was the ground was frozen solid. I needed a plan B - I heeled them in in the greenhouse. It's not heated but the ground was still soft so it should keep their roots safe. These trees aren't as big as some I've bought in the past but they all look healthy and as I'm planting them as cordons I want to keep their growth quite small so it might be an advantage.
Heeled in in the green house
Now I've got to prepare their plot, put in three posts with straining wire, and plant them all, should keep me busy for a while - a job over the christmas break I think!

Sunday 9 December 2012

Ex Caged Birds A Couple Of Months On

Well it's not quite a couple of months but I'm really pleased with how well they're doing.
We did loose two in the first week when it dropped really cold but other than that they've been fine, they've even been laying in this cold snap we've been having! We've been having around 3 a eggs a day off nine birds and in this weather I don't think that's too bad!

I've put these pictures on so long as no one comments on how messy my garden is!
They're also doing a great job of getting rid of the weeds for me.
Some happy chickens.

Saturday 1 December 2012

More Orchard Purning

I spent today on my parents farm covering for dads store man who's off. As I was there for the day I took the time to prune the orchard that I planted around 8 years ago on my parents farm.

A small mixed orchard I planted around 8 years ago on my parents farm
Before we brought our little smallholding I never thought I'd be able to afford any land of my own so I planted this small mixed orchard so we'd have a good selection of fruit every Autumn. It also meant  I could enjoy growing fruit trees on a slightly larger scale than in my back garden. I've now got the start of my own orchard but I'm still going to make sure this one is productive for my parents (and for us until my trees start producing!).
Before - Lots of branches crossing over

After - The centre is much more open.
The old saying is that I should be able to throw my hat through the middle of the tree
 I used a "silky" type saw for the pruning today. I was mainly looking to lift the canopy of some of the trees (by removing lower branches) and to open the centres to let light in as well as removing any branches that cover each other.
Not a lollipop tree in site!

Bit of a bigger pile of brash than when I did my orchard!
These trees seem to becoming on quite well and some of them already have a great "goblet" shape to them. I had quite a pile of branches after an hour of pruning.
Anyone else been working on their fruit trees yet this season?
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