Saturday, 21 May 2022

Split Ash Baskets - Day 1

 On a whim the other day I booked a weekend away for my wife and me. Now obviously I'm someone who enjoys doing something and when I saw a course about ash basket weaving I was really interested. This wasn't a subject I knew anything about and I thought it might be a good mix of my woodworking skills and my wife's skills for knitting/sewing. 

The course was near Bristol, was over tow days and my wife had been given a hotel voucher to use for her birthday so we decided to make a weekend of it. The course was through a company called Tree to Treen and the instructor was to be Chell Mateo

Sunday, 15 May 2022

City Veg by Cinead McTernan - Book Review

 This book of "City Veg" by Cinead McTernan was given to me by Bloomsberry Publishing, but it in no way affects my review. 

Now I'll start by saying this is a beautiful looking book. Inside the pictures are gorgeous and is lovely to leaf through to look Cinead's small but beautifully formed garden. 

Her writing is also beautifully composed. I've not come across her before, but I'm under the impression she is off the telly (I don't really watch much TV so have no reference other than a google search). The book takes the form of a year in the life of gardening their small urban veg garden. I love how much they fit into their garden and the crops and meals they enjoy. 

Each month is broken into different sections about certain plants grown or harvested that month, then a simple recipe to finish it, to give inspiration on how to use that crop. 

I did enjoy the book, I imagine it would be a good winter read while dreaming of summer days in the garden and gluts of crops to come. However I don't think I'm this books demographic as it didn't grab me and make me want to keep reading in big gulps like I normally read a book. 

There was also one bit with a factual inaccuracy I was kind of shocked to read. 

In the section about seed saving (one of my obsessions) it says that "Tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas and pumpkins are a good place to start as they're very simple to save".

This isn't true. Peppers cross like no ones business, as do runner beans (although French are fine). Tomatoes are easy unless they have a protruding sigma (there are lots of varieties out there that do) and pumpkins are from the squash family (either c.pepo or c.maxima) and are promiscuous veg to say the least. Sometimes even crossing with inedible gourds, one reason we won't take them at the seed swap unless we talk to the person saving them to make sure they live either isolated (by a fair distance) or tape the flowers shut and hand pollinate. At best it grows true to the plant it's saved from, more likely it will mean someone puts effort into growing a plant that is a cross and potentially has insipid fruit on it that doesn't grow true. At best it grows true to the plant it's saved from, more likely it will mean someone puts effort into growing a plant that is a cross and potentially has insipid fruit on it that doesn't grow true. At worst it could be an extremely rare case where its dangerous. Google toxic squash syndrome for more information on the worse case scenario, although hopefully it wouldn't come to this. 

Then the next page it goes on to talk about cleaning them and collecting from more varieties of veg (some of which listed cross easily) as if it's an easy thing to do. Don't get me wrong, some seed saving is dead easy, but some isn't. It's a shame this wasn't made more obvious and is misleading. 

So this is a enjoyable light reading gardening book, but if you're looking for something more in-depth it might not be for you. 

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Lawn Edging From Logs - part 1

I keep trying to find ways to use the timber around me. So the other day at mum and dads I pulled out some pear logs from a tree they had to fell a few years ago. 

Getting them back they were too big for what I wanted, I decided to cleave them down smaller, into quarters. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Growing In The Cracks

In my quest to lessen where weeds can grow I'm trying to grow plants to fill spaces that would otherwise be taken by weeds. 

One of these spaces is in the cracks in my paving slabs. I left gaps for this purpose though as what I wanted was a sea of creeping thyme between them (mum has this in her patio and I always think it's lovely).

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Sowing Carrots After School

 All week he'd been on about sowing some carrots in the garden. So Last Thursday night I prepared a bed with extra compost. We marked out 4 rows and we sowed the seed between us. 

He was so happy to do this! Really makes me happy that he's so keen to grow his own food. 

Thursday, 5 May 2022

End Of "Flockdown"

 The joy it brings me to have my chickens outside again during the day can't be understated. 

Part of me wants to rant about shed of 40,000 birds being the reason we have to have these restrictions. But to be honest I'm just happy they can all be out and about, eating a more natural diet and enjoying themselves.

I think the first day they were out I've never heard them being noisier! And they went everywhere, not sticking by their pens like I thought they would. Already had to tell two off that were in my workshop!

I know there is a far greater chance of predators, but I do just love having them outside. 

Who else loves seeing their chickens free range?

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Making a Gate From A Yew Log - Green Woodworking - Part 2

 So with some chunks of yew at my house it was time to break them down a bit smaller. When I've worked with sweet chestnut a froe is a handy tools for this.

The knotty yew wouldn't entertain this idea though. So it was axe and wedges for every piece. Intruth I could have donw with soem bigger bits, as it was I ended up using quarters for the styles of the gate when really it would be better to hew something square from something bigger. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Making a Gate From A Yew Log - Green Woodworking - Part 1

 When I was in Wales working on the roof my friend text me and said they had some Yew down in the last storm and would it be any good for anything before they log it for firewood. 

I had been just making an arch from Sweet chestnut for a magazine article for Woodcraft Magazine so had been getting into cleaving my own timber. I consulted Woodland Crafts In Britain by H.L Edlin and it said - 

"It is very durable out of doors, and old tree trunks are still cleft or hewn into fence posts that are claimed, with good reason, to outlast iron."

So I decided it was probably worth a go! 

Monday, 25 April 2022

Big Cut Roof Job In Wales - Internals First Fix

One of my favourite jobs in carpentry is studding. Trouble was we had a fair bit to do before we could get there. 

The lovely old floor boards had seen better days (and better trades) so we decided the first thing to do was cover them with ply to make them a bit flatter and a bit stronger. 

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Big Cut Roof Job In Wales - Side 2 - Roofing

 Something about a roofing job. Not sure what it is. People are often in awe of builders chucking on a new roof. In truth once the thinking part is done much of it is very simple. But some roofs have much more thinking than others involved in them!

This was one of the ones with more thinking in it! 

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Big Cut Roof Job In Wales - Side 1 - Roofing

So Somehow I got roped into a big roofing job. 

Repairing a roof on my parents property in Wales. Also add three dormers and two velux roof lights to make it a more useable and well lit space. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Sea Of Edible Greens In The Greenhouse

 Sorry no posts for the last week or so - It's been a bit mad but I have some really interesting posts coming up to make up for it (and to explain why I've been so busy!). 

ButI thought I'd do a quick post on how much I'm loving my bed in the greenhouse at the moment. 

It's become a beautiful sea of edible greens! 

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Sunday With The Children

 #### This blog post contains pictures of dead animals. If that offends you then don't click read more and come back another time. ####

I often wonder what the children will remember from their childhood. What will form core memories for them. 

Sunday is a simple day that I enjoy. I love when we go out for the day but I also love it when we stay home and tackle a load of jobs together. 

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Duck & Raspberry Pen

 So, thought I'd do a bit more about the new tunnel as there was quite a few questions. 

The 60 raspberry canes turned up early last week and I got them in the ground within an hour of them turning up!

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

New Duck Pen

A few weeks back I asked everyone's advice about enclosed pens for poultry. 

In the end, after much thinking I decided to get a small (ish) polytunnel frame and enough net to cover it. I decided it had a few advantages over the cheaper chicken pens, it would last longer, be wroth soemthign to sell if we ever got rid of it, and if we needed to we could easily convert it to a proper polytunnel to grow more crops under cover. 

this one is quite low, only about 7ft high, but it only took me about 2 hours to put up on my own (not including clearing the area with the digger). The posts for the tunnel are just hammered into the soil, so it's not a permeant structure. 

 The children then helped pull the net over it. 

Monday, 28 March 2022

A 40th Birthday Party!

 Last week it was my wife's 40th birthday! She is an incredible woman and I am very lucky to have her in my life. Amazing to think that we've spent the whole of our 20s and 30s together - over half my life (I'm a year younger), We met when I was 18 and she was 19 and I love the life we've created together. 

The bar staff, although smartly dressed, struggled with some of the drinks...

My wife was keen to have a party so we hired the village hall, and I got brewing and baking! 

Saturday, 26 March 2022

New Rose Arch - Some Assembly Required...

For a while now I've wanted the veg garden to look a bit nicer. I've wanted to have somewhere to sit and have it as slightly more than just a productive area. 

One thing I've always wanted was a nice entrance to it, rather than a few gates made from old pallets. A few years ago, (7 in fact) I fenced mums garden with sweet chestnut and I've always loved the look of that, it blends in more as it ages. The other advantage is the wood is all coppiced locally and is sustainable. 

 When I enquired about an arch they said there was quite a wait but I could buy the timbers and make it myself instead. So I did just that. They're based not far from here so didn't take too long to get there, although we had to dig out a few logs to make the order right! 

What I got is quite a few poles of sweet chestnut, there is enough in the picture for a few fence posts I need, enough timber to build a shaving break (for splitting the chestnut down into lathes) and the wood for the rose arch. I've also got some paling on order as well for fencing around the garden and greenhouse. 

I'm really looking forward to working on this project. I think I'll get the children to help as much as possible, they should be able to strip the bark as an easy first job. 

Have you ever worked with sweet chestnut? What type of fencing would your dream garden have?

Thursday, 24 March 2022

The Polytunnel is Clear of Ducks!

 The polytunnel is clear of ducks! This makes me so happy! 

I swear there is no chance they are going in there this winter should their be another lockdown. Their new pen (in another post) will be their permeant home. 

Monday, 21 March 2022

Sausage Course At Mileshiggins Meat boxes

 I spent a lovely morning with my mum on Sunday. 

For Christmas she had got me a morning making sausages in a farm in Herefordshire that also does meat boxes, Mileshiggings farm. For Christmas she will often get a course we can do together and it makes it a really nice experience. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Willow - Short Rotation Coppice - First Cuts

 Cutting it a bit fine with the season but I've just finished coppicing my hybrid willow that I planted about 7 years ago.

You don't get a huge harvest but I'm pleased with what I've got from it. 

The battery chainsaw has been perfect for this. 

Sunday, 13 March 2022

New Branding Irons - Outpost Workshop

Just after Chrismas my branding iron broke, the thread stripped and it would no longer mount on the handle. For a while I used it with a pair of mole grips, but they'd soon get hot and after a few firings the brand started to bend - it's not how they should be used! 

So I set about looking to have a new one made. I found a company on Instagram called Outpost workshop who was UK based so sent him a message and the files to have it made. My sister and her partner designed the logo 6 years ago now - and so the old brand has served me well!

I emailed him on the Thursday evening, by the Monday morning it was with me! Unbelievable service! I was so pleased!

I had two made this time, a smaller one for my smaller products, and an electric heating element in the bigger one, which I end up using quite  few times in a week. I can tell you after using the electric one that it's not as fun as a blowtorch, but it's so much easier! The smaller one won't get used so much so it's fine to have that one to heat up the old fashioned way. 

It's great that I can carry on branding the items I make, I think I've used it 20 times so far and I've been really pleased, I'm hoping for many years service from it! 

Ever used a branding iron? 

Friday, 11 March 2022

Clearing Up Some Willow

 At the bottom of the garden, below the polytunnel, there is a willow tree. 

Now this willow tree grows ridiculously well. Every year it is a sea of green. But the other day I was putting together a slide show for a garden club talk and saw just how much it had grown in the ten years since we had been here. The trouble with Sally trees is they tend to grow upwards, then break, fall outwards then carry on growing. 

I think this tree had spread about 15ft outwards. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

World Book Day 2022 - Laura Ingalls

 The children had their world book day last week and I loved their costumes which they used their own ideas for. 

The youngest was "How to wash a woolly Mammoth". 

The middlest was "How the leopard got his spots"

And the eldest was Laura Ingalls from the "Little house on the prairie" series of books. She was the most excited about this as she made the piny/apron herself, sewing it during half term as a great little project. 

I said I was going to my workshop as "Papere" from a great children's carpentry book we have called "Grandpas Workshop" as a no effort costume. 

What would you go dressed as?

Monday, 7 March 2022

Teaching Children Woodcarving

 My girls have wanted to try a bit more carving lately.

So I set up a couple of stations for them to work at with a mallet each with a few of the basic tools needed. I also cut them a small piece for lime each for them. 

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Need A New Poultry Enclosure - Advice Wanted

 Okay, so the ducks in the polytunnel have had a great winter. Warmer, with a bit of water changed everyday to clean and swim in. The trouble is it prevents me from growing so much winter and early spring produce. One of the main reasons I had a polytunnel in the first place - it helps bridge the hungry gap. 

There has been a warning of avian flu just 3 miles away so I'm worried that the lockdown might last longer than last year and eat into spring, which would affect my summer crops as well. 

So I want them out! 

Saturday, 5 March 2022

More Apple Tree Pruning

At mum and dads this time, on the orchard I planted over 20 years ago. Some of these trees are a bit younger though. 

To keep it simple I've just done before and after shots showing how I try to open up the tree in the middle to keep that goblet shape. 



Thursday, 3 March 2022

Marshmallow Oven!

The pizza oven was a massive undertaking of effort and I was worried that we wouldn't really get to use it until the summer. 
I was wrong though, it has been perfect for the children. they love lighting little fires in it and cooking marshmallows!

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

Wine making explosion!

Went downstairs the other morning to a scene that looked like it was straight out of CSI - winemaking unit.  

The big barrels I use for 5 gallon wine kits are normally fine for the primary fermentation but this yeast must have got a bit keen - blew the airlock off and sprayed wine onto the ceiling. Good job it was only RED WINE! Argh! 

I spent a long time scrubbing! 

I've just started another wine kit but this time in the shed! 

Anyone else have a homebrew disaster lately?

Monday, 28 February 2022

More Garden Progress - Half Hour a Day

I feel like I might almost be ready for spring if I carry on like this. 

These are the completed beds. I've dug them over to remove every bindweed and couch grass root I could find. crumbled every sod of earth in my hands to check. I've no doubt I've missed loads but I'm hopeful it might give me a head start. 

 I'm going to continue down the garden but also need to think about getting the rotted manure up here to feed some of these beds before the busy planting time starts. 

I also need to move the small greenhouse and concrete in a small base for it as the one it's currently sat on has rotted away. A job I'd like to do before the season gets too far in! Trouble is I think I'll have to take out all the glass before I start to make the new base. I plan to move it 6ft to the left looking at it from this picture, I might then build a post structure with a perspex roof in between the two greenhouses as a kind of "base of operations" where I can tidily keep all my gardening supplies, pots and other items. 

Who else feels almost ready for spring?

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Malvern Seed Swap

 Yesterday I went along to the seed swap in our local town Malvern. Was lovely to see a event like this kicking off again. Apparently it always used to have a seed swap in April but I had never got round to going. 

Friday, 25 February 2022

Triggers Trowel...

The other day the handle on my long trowel broke. 

Now I have to admit that this had probably been left outside too often, but it had done about 8 years of service as my main trowel! 

I was gutted, but I decided it was far too good of a trowel to throw away, so time to quickly make a new handle. 

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Less Screentime

I'm going to write this post and try not to sound preachy. At a talk the other day I got asked how I keep my children off screens. 

I think it's certainly easier for us here as we have plenty of space and my work fits perfectly around the children. So there is lots for the children to do and I often do and make things with them (we play a lot of board games in the house as well). 

But my answer to the question was really simple. We don't let them. We're the authority here. 

They have access to tablets and stuff, but they get to use them for a few hours on a Saturday and Sunday morning and that's it. If we go out for a meal we don't take devices with us, we try and talk and enjoy each others company, or if it's going to be boring we take a deck of cards to play with. 

I'm proud of the fact our children have great attention spans and will happily watch a whole movie, or do a job that takes upwards of an hour without loosing interest. They also have chores to do and will empty the dishwasher or cook breakfast. 

Last Saturday was the perfect example. I'd kicked them outside (they were playing Lego) and they were wondering what they could do. Middlest asked if they could have a bonfire, but I don't have enough to burn for that, instead I said they could light the pizza oven (goo to light it in the winter as stops it getting too damp). They went and found twigs, some newspaper and the matches, they lit it themselves, I had nothing to do with the whole operation. They then spent hours feeding the fire and playing in the area around it (sword fights with sticks featuring quite highly). 

I love when they end up staying out until it gets dark, perfect winters day! 

Probably preaching to the converted with this post, so I apologise if I am or if I come across "holier than thou" with it!

Monday, 21 February 2022

The Floor Is Lava

 These guys were supposed to be moving firewood, but stopped as apparently "The floor is lava". I love hearing them play outside, their days are just filled with laughter and they often stay out until dark. 

They did move some wood for me though. It's nice that I can cut some up then get them to bring it in that evening. Makes them feel part of the process to help keep us warm and they enjoy helping (that's what I tell them anyway).

Always lots of wood to process into firewood here, if I get my act together we have the next few years sorted, especially as it's oak! 

Who else is keeping up with cutting firewood for the future?

Sunday, 20 February 2022

No Storm Damage

 I sometimes moan about the fact that we're on a north facing slope, in a wet little dip. 

But when a storm rolls in I'm thankful that we're tucked down out the way. 

Taking a walk around after the winds had settled I was pleased there was no damage. The only thing was one of the tarps blown off a chicken pen - but it was a cheaper tarp than I normally use.

So I put the old one back on and added a new one over the top. Should act a bit like insulation like that! 

How did everyone else fair through the storm? Any damage?

Saturday, 19 February 2022

No-Dig Greenhouse Bed

 So for the last ten years (and before in my old house) I've been gardening in the greenhouse with either growbags or, more recently, builders buckets.

These have worked great and I've had some amazing crops over the years from them, making up my own mixes to plant into. A great old post showing this can be found here!

But since the ducks have been in the tunnel in the winter I've been missing out on growing some winter salads and having some early crops. So until I can see an end to winter poultry restrictions I think it's time to set things up a bit differently. 

First job was to lift the slabs and drag out all the bloody bindweed roots. 

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Apple Tree Pruning - Year 10

I can't quite believe I've had these trees in 10 years. Not all of them have made it, not all of them have grown that well in this shady little corner of our plot, but some have done brilliantly. 


I've only took photos of a few. This one I was going to graft over as it hadn't cropped, but last year gave us great apples for a change! 

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Some More Seeds Sown

We've been sowing lots of seeds again, can't seem to help ourselves! 


Last weekend we put some early "Alaska" peas in, with the idea to maybe crop these in the greenhouse, meshed up to stop the mice (hopefully). 

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Skinny Chilli

Over the years I've grown many chillies here, we don't use that many but they look so beautiful as plants. I tend to dry them or make them into jam. 

This year I only want a few plants to grow on the bedroom windowsill. I wanted small compact plants that were almost topiary in appearance. tony, at the seed swap, brought a pot of tiny chillies labelled as "Skinny Chillies". He said the plant stays small and will be perfect for what I want. 

 Breaking the seeds out of some naturally dried chillies is a sheer joy.

What's not sheer joy is forgetting you've done that then rubbing your eye an hour later! Pain! 

I've got these on my heated propagator and I'm hoping they germinate. 

What is your favourite chilli to grow?

Friday, 11 February 2022

Seed Swap Haul

I love coming back from the seed swap, tired but fired up about the garden year - Maybe this is what was missing from my gardening last year and why I seemed to have no mojo about it all!  

This is my haul, a lot of seeds, but then I took about 100 packets as well so I don't feel too guilty! 

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Hereford Seed Swap 2022

 After last years seed swap couldn't go ahead I was almost worried about how this one would be received and whether we'd have to build it back up. 

Quite the opposite was true! The Seed swap was a huge success, so many attended and I've never seen so many seeds, even before we started the tables were swamped with packets. 

Monday, 7 February 2022

Battery Chainsaw - First thoughts

So although I own a two stroke petrol chainsaw which is brilliant, I've been thinking about getting a battery one for sometime now. 

I went for Makita for the simple reason that all my other cordless tools are on this 18v platform so it just makes sense for me to go that way. 

Saturday, 5 February 2022

Boba Fett Stick

This is probably the most dangerous thing I've made with my son! 

We've been watching the book of Boba Fett after the kids swimming lesson each week as a little treat together (before my wife gets home from work as she is not a star wars fan). A few weeks ago Boba got a stick from the tuskan raiders and my boy decided he'd quite like one. 

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Artichokes & Cordoons

I'm always chomping at the bit to get stuff planted early in the season. 

When we first moved here I had some brilliant globe artichoke plants, although they didn't last out the winter. And over the years I've grown them a few times since. Always a real treat to eat (if a bit of a faff) and some real structural plants for the garden. 

So I thought we'd put them in again this year. The instructions say that planted this time of year they'll be annual so it has made me think that might be why they didn't make it through last time. 

I've always fancied growing cardoons as well. I know they take up a huge amount of space but that's not something we're short of here. I've never eaten the blanched stems but have wanted to ever since seeing it on Victorian Kitchen Garden many years ago. 

My boy helped me plant them. I love how careful he is with seeds, such a delicate touch as he plants them. 

I've decided this is going to be a good gardening year so fingers crossed I don't start to let it slip before we even get properly growing! 

What have you been sowing lately? Keep me on my toes! Who has peas in already? 

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

More Garden Progress (Half Hour A Day)

 I feel like I'm making such good slow and steady progress with the garden this year. It's only been just over a month doing my half hour a day (and a few extra units of time at the weekends) but it's really moved things forward. 

I've decided to alter the layout slightly as well. Before you walked in and out on a narrow strip of slabs and it was always a bit of a fight to get in and out, the gate made from old wood is also on the way out so I think I'll make the entrance bigger and have it slightly further away from the greenhouse.

Also a much wider slabbed area as you first walk in. This will be great for setting out pots when hardening off and I'd really like to get it so I've got somewhere to sit in the veg garden. I had a bench in the veg at our last house and I was thinking that would be nice to do again. 

The slabs are only set rough on the soil, but that means I can change it again in the future should I want to do things differently. 

So far I've had 8 bucketful's of bindweed roots from the patch where I'm now going to make the new entrance. I'm also thinking about investing in a bit of sweet chestnut pailings and possibly an arch way to train two apple trees up. We'll see though as I'm terrible for getting carried away! 

Anyone else altering the layout of their garden at the moment?

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