Thursday 30 June 2016

Precast Concrete Shed Plans

Another one from the woodworker this week - Some plans for a making a precast concrete shed from scratch! No a basic level of woodworking that's for sure! 

How do you think you'd get on building it and all the formers? I'm a carpenter and I think it looks like hard work! 

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Cold Frame Plans - The Woodworker

I stubbed across these wood working plans for a cold frame in an old issue of the woodworker the other day and I thought I'd share them all with you. 

I think these cold frames would be great! 
What do you think could you follwo these plans form the 1950's?

Sunday 26 June 2016

Friendly Hens

I was showing my neighbour my ex commercial hens the otherday and he remarked on how friendly they were. 
Just as he said it one jumped up onto his arm. 
It made us both laugh. It's funny how these birds, that have had so little human contact, can be so friendly! 

Saturday 25 June 2016


I've woke up yesterday to know that I'm bringing my children up in a world with less unity. 

It's not even about the market crashes and recession that's going to follow. It's the selfishness of the act.
When people talk about making "Briton great again" I think they often forget how many people and nations we hurt to do that and how only a rich few benefitted from it at the time.

I guess time will tell on this decision but I can't help feeling that even in the unlikely situation that Britain is better off, the world as a whole is not.

Although I'm disappointed with the result I still have respect for anyone that voted, it's always a shame that more people dont vote. 

But we live in a democracy and the people have spoken, now we just have to make the best of it, Continue to work hard, and do well.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Fathers Reading Every Day

There's always a lot of "Dad Slamming" on the internet and social media which reinforces outdated stereotypes, there is also a lot of positive stuff out there. 
One I stumbled across was this campaign to get fathers reading to their children everyday and I thought it was a great idea.
I was always read to everyday as a child, a bedtime story is an essential part of the day when you're growing up, but if you're not brought up with that then you don't realise how important it is. Five minutes spent reading a story each night is shown to have a huge impact on how children learn to read and I should imagine it encourages a love of books that will roll on into adulthood. 

Here's what their website says about their campaign:
Fathers Reading Every Day is a really simple programme that encourages dads to read with their children at home. It changes lives. Its effects are most powerful among children from disadvantaged backgrounds – and it’s brilliant with boys especially.
We’ve set ourselves the goal of bringing FRED to 200 schools and children’s centres, reaching over 6,000 children, this year. We’ve already trained schools in London, Greater Manchester, Wolverhampton, Bradford and Rochdale. By telling your local school about FRED, donating in honour of Father’s Day (19 June 2016) and sharing a photo of yourself or a much-loved dad reading, using the hashtag #DadsReading, you could help us reach even more.
Too many kids lack a supportive learning environment at home – and getting dads reading is a vital part of changing that. Children whose dads read to them from an early age, do better…and FRED has been shown to have a huge impact on reading, writing and even maths. In fact, researchers found that children who took part in FRED were four times as likely as those who did not, to make greater-than-expected progress in reading!

We love reading in our household and if I could get away with just reading one book a day to my children it would be a miracle! We often say that we know when a guest has "made it" in our house when the girls bring them a story they want reading.
My favourite story to read the children. I know it off by heart from reading it hundreds of times but I still love it.
"It was late at night and time for bed, the clock was ticking when somebody said..."

I think encouraging more people to read stories to children in this age frequently filled with tablets and smart phone is a great idea.

What's your favourite bedtime story?

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Good Advice About Sheep

Yesterday I posted a rather down hearted post about keeping sheep. 
Reading the comments was great, some from both sides of the fence and there was one that really struck a cord with me from "Mr Home Maker" It read-
"...and then there is the continuation of shepherding/husbandry skills from one generation to another - it's not all about $$"

That's it. 
To be honest I need to keep sheep for nothing more than that. 
I want my children to have a similar "extra" set of skills when they're adults to what was given to me. 

Sunday 19 June 2016

Are Sheep Worth It?

The sheep are causing me trouble again this year. I seem to be having a run of bad luck with them lately, but this week has been particularly bad. 
One for the sheep managed to get into the lamb creep, where I've been feeding the lambs a mix of rolled oats, barley and beans. This feed is great for the lambs as it reduces their dependence on their mothers whilst still allowing them to fatten quickly.
Unfortunatly when this ewe got in there it didn't know when enough was enough and ate more than it's fill. It then got out and drank loads of water, this made all that grain in it's stomach expand and ferment.
When I found her she was pretty unresponsive, couldn't get up and was bloated. I tried everything to get the food and gas out, even giving her a drench with bicarb, oil and water which is meant to help get rid of the gas. I also made her swallow a plastic tube which is meant to do the same thing. Unfortunately, although I tried my best she still died. Apparently the stomach keeps expanding and crushes the major organs.
This hasn't set me in a great mood for the week.
Sorry for the selfie, this was taken at nine on Friday night after I discovered orf on some of the lambs.
Happy face
Then when checking the sheep the following morning there's a lamb looking sorry for itself, it's sick with something and to make matters worse there's the early signs of orf; a scab in the corner of his mouth. 
Orf is a perpetual pain with sheep as it'as easily spread around the flock. That meant that Friday night I had to get them all in and go through the lambs to make sure not too many had it. Not how everyone wants to spend their Friday night I'm sure! 
The lamb is now on a course of treatment and looking a little better, but it'll probably still die! 
I also had to do the second course of vaccinations for the lambs this weekend. 

With so much work and so little return I do frequently questions if they're worth it. That said I do enjoy having the land and when I'm not working full time and my work load is lower the jobs won't seem s quite so bad. 

What do you think? Would you keep sheep if you had the chance?

Thursday 16 June 2016

More Planting Through Plastic

Down at the bottom of the garden, there's a surprise waiting for you. 
It's called weeds! 
Not quite ground force but we can get a lot done between us! 
The veg garden is looking pretty good at the moment but where the 16 beds ends it turns, rather abruptly, into a jungle of weeds. It's not something I'm proud of and it's certainly on my list of things to do! 
On Sunday the girls and I decided to tackle a very small part of it. We dug out a strip for a new bed. Pulling out all the nettle and reed roots that had taken hold and made a big pile of them. This took some time, and for the girls a complete change of clothes - well it was rather muddy! Fair play to them though they stayed for ages and worked hard, we frequently had to stop and look at worms and bugs, but I didn't mind that!  

Singing was optional! 
I've decided to make these beds narrow than my others. The main garden has beds divided into 4ft strips, the idea being that you can reach the middle from both sides. The trouble with this is you find yourself stretching all the time. Narrowing the bed down to about 30" means I can reach to the other side crouched on one side of the path. 

 I laid the slabs on the bare earth so I now had a new 10ft by 30" bed marked out, with hopefully most of the perennial weeds removed. I then added a couple wheel barrow loads of well rotted sheep muck and mixed it in before covering the whole thing with weed membrane.
A few nights later ( a dry few minutes) I got the blow torch out again (like I did here) and burnt in holes for plant to be planted. 
It's a bit of a mixed bed with some plants I'm experimenting with. 
In it is some Vietnamese  coriander, (which I bough again at Hellens Festival at the weekend as my other didn't make it through winter or go to seed last year), some quillqina (a mexican herb I'm trying to grow), some Peruvian Black mint (another herb I'm experimenting with), a giant Achocha (just to see how it does out of the greenhouse - this will need some support though!) and four chilli pepper plants (just to see how they perform outside as well. 

Hopefully planting them in this way will give me some low effort herbs and flavourings, whilst keeping the weeds at bay and reclaiming some more of the veg garden. 
I've started on another bed below this one last night in which I intend to plant my chickpeas in much the same way. I then think the area below that I will just cover over to suppress the weeds for a few months then sow a green manure for over the winter. 

Anyone else growing though plastic? Anyone else have much luck with growing things that are traditionally greenhouse crops outside in a UK type climate, like chilli's?

Monday 13 June 2016

Sheep Shearing - Last Week

It's been a busy week so I've got a bit of catching up to do. 
On Monday I spoke to my neighbour, Ken, about getting the sheep sheared, as it was getting warmer and like every Shepard I was getting worried about fly strike and my animals over heating. 
He phoned back within a few minutes, the guys we used last year were busy but his friend was getting back into after 18 years as he had a young lad to train. 
I came back from work (I was only working in the village luckily) and set to getting set up.
It wasn't long until we had the sheep penned up and everything in the right place. 
I had the easy job of keeping the smaller feeder pen full of sheep to make it easier for the shearer to pull the next sheep out for shearing. 
The lad he was training was keen to learn the skill and really cared about the animals, he felt really guilty if he cut one but as I kept saying to him it's inevitable as they move about so much. They have a tough skin and even the pros cut sheep from time to time, we make sure that we treat any cuts straight away so they heal fast. I'm just glad there are some new people learning to shear sheep as it's the last thing I want to learn or do! 
The kids thought that shearing was great full. Alistair didn't really know what to make of it all, but I liked getting him in the pen with me - gotta start them young with stock! 

The girls liked it as well. There was a little pen right next to the sheep so they could safely get close to the action and see what was going on. 

So at the end of the evening and a few beers shared round to cool down from a hot and close June day, I had a flock of bald and happy sheep. You could see that they were so much happier now they could keep a little cooler. 

Anyone else who keeps sheep had theirs sheared yet?

Now who want to buy some wool?

Saturday 11 June 2016

Hellens Garden Festival!

So today was the day of my talk! 
I put a lot of effort into preparing it and I'd like to think from the feedback I received that it went quite well! 
In fact the whole day was great.
I did my 40 minutes or so talking about our homestead and how we got to where we are today, a short history of the last four years we've spent here, and I tried to fill it with anecdotes and funny things that had happened, but also how involved the children are in the whole process. 

Not a great picture but my name is one the board! Although they kept calling me Ken instead of Kev! 
Talks in the Georgian stable
The whole day was great fun. We went and sat in the yurt to start with and had children's stories told in the most magical way. We met up with some friends (thanks Kirsty, James and Brian) and my mother (who all came to give me some moral support), then after lunch and my talk we had a brilliant afternoon trying to look round all the stalls.

 We were so impressed with what was on offer (I didn't take many pictures so they won't do it Justice), there were lots and lots of plant stalls, areas selling different produce and hand made and local items.
playing in a willow "nest" 
But what really set this festival apart, for me anyway, was how much there was for children (and adults) to do. The girls got faces painted, played with willow weaved letters of their names, made flags, made juggling balls, danced to the live music, watched black smiths and green woodworkers at work, went to the story tellers yurt and watched their daddy do a talk (and they came up to me right at the right point to make me look like a good daddy!)
Making flags

Two happy girls

Too much for some! 
All in all it was a perfect day, to be honest we don;t really feel like we did it all justice and if we knew that the girls weren't going to be so tired (and they're really tired as I type this) then we'd go back tomorrow and do it all again.

Anyone in Herefordshire (or surround counties) and looking for something to do tomorrow make sure you go to Hellens garden festival. It's for some great causes, with an amazing atmosphere and I 100% recommend it! 
(Also if the weather is bad there is still plenty to do under cover, lots of the childrens things are covered over)

Thursday 9 June 2016

Blog Branding - New Logo & Header!

With my return to being a stay at home dad again not too far away (three months) I've decided to step up how seriously I take the blog and create a bit of branding to go with it.  
My sister and her boyfriend have come up with this design and the header bar above and I'm really, really pleased with it. 
It makes the whole thing feel more professional, now when I'm making things to sell or selling produce I have a professional image/brand to go with it. 
I've even got a polo shirt coming with the logo on for my talk on Saturday. 
What do you think?

Wednesday 8 June 2016

A Carpenter's Breakfast

My youngest daughter is a little monkey at eating breakfast at the moment but we seem to have found something that works. 
She normally pinches some of my breakfast anyway, sat on my knee, and she's a little bit obsessed about becoming a carpenter at the moment, so we've started calling muesli a "carpenters breakfast".
This really makes her want some of her own as she thinks she's a little carpenter anyway and need the fuel to be one as well.
She already claims any tool catalogue that comes through the post as "ours" and will quite happily sit on me knee as we look through them. Not every two year old girl wants to sit and read tool catalogues!

She also wants a beard like daddy as well but we're hoping she grows out of that one...

Sunday 5 June 2016

Outside Tomatoes Planted

As I'm not growing quite as much this year I've decided to dispense with growing potatoes, which I can buy locally for next to nothing anyway (although I do admit they're very satisfying to grow). In there place I've decided to stick with the nightshades (solanaceae) though so it doesn't mess up my rotation plan.
I've also trying to be a little smarter with my gardening and trying to reduce labour. I've decided to take a leaf out of Curtis Stones book and plant my plants through weed membrane. The idea being that I won't have to weed the plot & it should retain a lot of it's water as well.

I've tried to use weed membrane like this before but it's never really worked for me because it starts to unweave as soon as you cut the holes for the plants. Reading a few books and blogs apparently burning holes into the fabric is the way to go as it seals the edges. I will also be able to reuse this year after year as well. 

I used an old bean can to burn around for the tomatoes to go into. This is proper recycling as this was the same can I used to measure sheep feed with! 

I'm planting these tomatoes very close together as well. The plan is that I'll have these 50 or so plants in a 10ft by 4ft bed but each plant is only allowed to set one truss of fruit. It then gets pruned so all it's energy goes into that first truss. I get a lower yield per plant but because I can fit so many more in I should still make good use of the bed and each truss would be of good quality and ripen faster. 

The bed is split into two  with larger plants at the back and younger, smaller plants at the front, this should give me two flushes of fruit from this bed. There's also a huge mix of varieties (nine or ten I think) so I can see which ones do well under this system.

Anyone else planting tomatoes outside? Who else has tried a system like this? Hopefully it'll produce a glut I can preserve by canning! 

Friday 3 June 2016

20 Extra Chickens

Back to some normal posts now! 
Last night the girls stayed at Grandmas and Grandads for the first time, so I took my wife and Alistair out for a meal, with a slight ulterior motive, we were going to pick up some chickens afterwards! 
These are ex free range commercial layers and they cost next to nothing to buy. They've reached the end of their commercial lifespan but as I've said in the past I think they have another 12 months in them where they can earn their keep here.
I went for 16 birds but ended up with 20! I'll have to get the honesty box back out again before we're over run with eggs! 

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Sibling Love

It's great that after all these years I'm still as close as ever with my siblings. 
Me, My brother and my sister on Saturday

Mum sent an email the other day saying she can't believe where the years have gone.
When we were younger. You have to love the knit wear! 
No doubt in thirty years time  I'll be sat looking at photos wondering the same thing. 
I just hope my three are as close to each other then as I am with my siblings now!
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