Apparently, this is my birthday present?

We literally just finished one job so he starts himself another. Boy really is a glutton for punishment!

At the back of our plot we have a very dilapidated old greenhouse that we call ‘The Potting Shed’. It’s got brick sides with inbuilt smoked glass windows and a wooden roof which looked like it had fire damage. There’s the trunk of a grape vine coming through the wall which some cretin had stolen before we arrived. It has always been one of ‘those jobs’ which I knew would never get done. I wanted it to be lovely and warm in there so that I can start my seedlings off in peace and possibly sit and have a victory brew in peace.

The majority of the glass fell out over Christmas 2018 so it is currently just storage for all of the ‘potentially useful junk’ we have come across in the past year. This mainly consists of old beer kegs and buckets from MrT’s workplace. I’m sure those chefs just use my allotment as a recycling centre at the moment!

The potting shed – before all the glass fell out winter 2018

So, when MrT announced yesterday that he was at the allotment but wouldn’t tell me what he was doing, I got scared. This usually means its something dangerous or involving power-tools and he knows I would shout at him for it.

When I arrived last night and he was waiting for me at the gate, I knew he had done something bad.
When he held my hand on the drive up the lane, I knew he had done something really bad.
When I arrived at the gate and he had laid a nice set of slabs at the entrance, I knew he had done something he thought I’d cry at.

Nice slabs for my gate wheel to run across instead of getting stuck in the chippings!

Bloody men.

He had only gone and demolished the whole roof of the Potting Shed.

Look at how proud he is. My poor strawberries…

He had bought some new beams and intended on replacing only the broken or rotten ones, but it turns out that they were all broken or rotten – at least they are now he’s finished with them anyway.

It looks like a disaster zone!

So, my ‘birthday present’ is new beams for the roof. It will take him months, but maybe itll be finished by the time that this years’ birthday comes around.

He did say this though – “I took lots of during pictures for your blog!”

Bless his little heart.

Junk store galore, hey?
Good luck getting around there….
His camera is obviously better than mine

I jest, but I am actually pretty excited. I hope it turns out how I would like it to and hope that my husband doesn’t give himself a concussion in the process….

The Chick Inn – “Always room for one more”

So, this post has been a long time coming. You’ll remember from the end of last year my worries about the girls current living arrangements and how I wanted to get them in to a custom-built coop. Unfortunately, the best laid plans always fall through and it has taken us this long to get around to finishing off our ladies’ new digs.

I took a day off work and roped in MrT to help build the new palace. Turns out it took much longer than a day and has actually taken about 3 weeks of weekend and evening work, but that’s by-the-by. We had no strict plans, no measurements, nothing. I just knew what I wanted and had to try and relay this on to him. We were planning on using as much of the spare tongue and groove wood from our new log cabin at home as possible so that it was built with some thick, well treated wood and would last a long time yet.

Sawn up fence post ‘legs’

We started off by building the base. We simply picked the shortest lengths of wood, slotted them together and kept going until it got to the right size. We made sure that the smooth side of the finished wood would be inside the coop. This lends itself to easy cleaning and also reduces hidey holes for redmite and other nasties. We then screwed a wooden square to the base for strength and the floor was done. Simples!

A very blurry MrT

Because the wood is so thick and heavy, we really needed to put it in to place before we added any more to it. We attached six leg (three either side) made out of old fence posts cut to size. This will keep the floor off the ground and reduce hiding places for Ratty and Co. to live and chew through the floor like they have the shed. We dug six holes in the ground to sink the legs and when everything is built and settled we will postcrete this in to stop it sinking. We placed it in the corner of the run so that we still have optimal space for the girls, and up against the fencing so that I can have the laying box outside the run without compromising the girls safety.

A bit wonky, but they got straightened up when we put it in position
The girls loved the readymade dust baths!
The only part we made sure was level was the floor

Next up was to build the rough structure for the walls. Again, we had no particular measurements so we used the offcuts of the base to make a rough shape. Initially I had pictured an apex roof, but I soon realised that was way too much effort, even if MrT thought it would be easy enough to do. I knew that I would end up finishing this off by myself though so opted for the easiest option. We just used a longer length for the front elevation, a shorter one for the back, and an angled piece at the top to hold it all together and support the roof. It needed to be steep enough for the rain and snow to run off, but not so steep that it makes the living quarters too shallow for the girls.

This is how it’ll look from the side
Build one side then use that to make an exact copy for the other side

Next up, screw these to the base and put in two equal lengths of wood across the front and back to make a “wonky box”. Mr T cut and installed some lovely diagonal ‘bits’ to keep the walls from flopping over in the wind. We then installed a ‘H’ shaped structure which was the height of a chicken to create the pop-door. My descriptions are obviously very technical and in no way made-up.

Don’t do this on a windy day!
Our pretty little ‘wonky box’

I wanted to include a nice laying box set-up for the girls which stuck out of the side of the herras fencing run so that I didn’t have to go in and disturb them every morning or evening. We made this run the full length of the house so that the cladding would run smoothly and to provide three nice big spaces for the girls to lay. 3 of the older ladies no longer lay much and the new girls are Bantams so take up very little space so 3 laying boxes would be more than enough for our 10. I planned to make this have a lift up lid for ease of access but also to keep it as fox-proof as possible. Its hard to describe the shape of the structure we built so take a look at the photos below and if you’d like measurements and instructions get in touch and I can send them over.

I built it through the fencing and cut the bars right at the end to keep it fox proof during construction

The next problem was that I wanted a nice people-door and a window in the new chicken-abode. MrT thought we could build them, I thought we should use the readymade ones from Cluckingham Palace Mark 1.  After many minutes of heated marital discussion, it was decided that we would do it my way. Obviously.

Nice hot pink window frame
This’ll be their view from their bed

Mr T went back to work for the rest of the week and left me with struct instructions to leave it until he we next off, so of course I got all of his tools back out (sorry love!) and spent my weekend carrying on with exactly what he told me not to do.

Cutting around the window frame was so difficult as I had to work with what tools we had

So the nice hot pink door and window frame were installed and looked beautiful. I took the window home and removed the chicken wire to install some clear Perspex. They don’t need it for ventilation as they will have the permanently open pop-door as well as a ventilation hole in the top of the coop.

Cladding up the stairs

Then it was just a case of cladding up the sides front and back. Much more difficult than it sounds since we had to try and work through herras fencing on two sides, with one also covered in brambles and nettles. Thick trousers and a jumper were required but I still felt like Snow White in the woods when the brambles grabbed hold of my hair!

This was hard to do single handed I must say!

This took a lot longer than I though and I needed about size hands, but eventually I managed it just in time for MrT to be off again. We went out to the DIY shop in my lunch hour and spent an awful lot of dosh on some hinges, hooks, hasps and roof panels which just so happened to be the perfect width. He then spent the afternoon creating a lovely lift up hatch for the laying box.

Being the hard worker that he is he had to go back for another full-on week (or perhaps he just pretends to go to work to get out of chores?) so I carried on regardless. I installed some laying box dividers made from offcuts of the hatch. I sanded and painted and made it look beautiful in ‘Slate Grey’. I hinged the door, added a hasp lock so that I can keep them safe and added a small hook and loop to the door so that I can pin it open should I need to.

The girls weren’t happy with my mess

Then, on the windiest day of the year, I decided to put the roof on… by myself.

Sadly, this is where our lack of measuring and squaring up really hindered us as it turns of that the whole place isn’t square! I nearly flew away many times and could hardly lift the heavy wooden sheets, but I managed it in the end so sat and had a victory brew surveying my building skills.

I then had to put the roofing felt on top, which was even less fun as when the wind catches that it rips the felt out of your hands along with the skin on your fingertips. Don’t try this at home kids. But guess what? I managed it in the end so sat and had another victory brew surveying my building skills.

Late on Monday evening, I went to the pet shop and loaded up the car with some fresh bedding and went on a mission to move in my girls (and Jimmy the undercover rooster) in to their new digs.

We blocked up the door to the old house and installed a roosting bar and a ladder entrance to the pop-door, filled the new place with bedding and hay, added their food and water dispensers and snuck in to the old coop to move them in. MrT was on removal from the old roost, and I was on placing on the new roost. I definitely picked the right job, as MrT soon saw what I meant about Jimmy looking after his ladies when it gets dark. After a good few nips to the wrists, MrT soon learned the best way to pick up a rooster is quickly and from behind!

All of the girls have now moved in to their new digs and appear to be loving it! There is less space in there than the old one so they are much cosier and its really toasty in there. They still have enough space to spread out and section themselves into their groups, but there’s less area for Jimmy to have to patrol and they can now huddle up without having the tiptoe along the bar in the dark.

We went down there again last night and found that only two of the girls had figured out how to use the ladder. Bloody birds. So, we spent another evening putting them to bed. The last man standing was Jimmy and he couldn’t figure it out for the life of him. After almost an hour of trying to corral him up the ladder, he finally got on to it by accident. It was almost as if you could see the lightbulb!
Hopefully now that he has worked it out, he will show the other girls tonight, but it’ll be another trip down there later to make sure the last of the stragglers know where ‘bed’ is!

Now finally, welcome to The Chick Inn – “Where There Is Always Room For One More” ,

Well that’s a S*** job!!

In our first year, we missed the opportunity to get manure delivered to our plot due to the sheer number of weeds and ground to cover. This made me far too overexcited when enough arrived to get it all done this year. That was, until I realised, I had to shift it all the way from the bottom to the top using a little shovel and my mums borrowed wheelbarrow…



The local farmer delivers tipper-truck-loads of cow manure to our allotment site for £30, which is much cheaper than buying bulk bags or compost and certainly less hassle than trying to haul this much in the back of my car. He waits until after the TB testing, so its often mid to late January before it all arrives.

Cow manure is one of the best manures for your veggie garden and has many more nutrients than the conventional horse manure. Cow manure contains 3 of the most important nutrients that plants need for their healthy growth – Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Now not all cow dung contains the exact same percentages of these nutrients, but research shows the amounts in fresh cow manure with bedding or litter are roughly 11 percent nitrogen, 4 percent phosphorus and 10 percent potassium. This is much better than horse manure and is perfect for leafy veg which is our main crop!

And the best part is that the beneficial bacteria in cow pats converts these essential nutrients into forms that are easily absorbed by plant roots. These nutrients are slowly infused into the soil allowing the plants to enjoy the benefits over longer periods. In the case of fresh cow manure, the moisture content is also high which helps to keep your watering costs to a minimum.



You should never put fresh manure directly on to any beds where you’re currently growing plants as you’ll soon find them dying off. This is called ‘burn’ and its one of the easiest ways to kill your veggies with kindness. Its best to leave it in a big pile for a couple of months to heat up and break down in to lovely crumbly compost.

Some of mine was already well broken down and some much fresher. There seemed to be lots of straw bedding in some areas too which will provide a home for some serious slug families.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a big enough area for a compost heap yet and it’ll be a good while before the weather here is good enough to plant anything out so I decided to spread it all direct. This will hopefully kill off all the small weeds below and keep my soil slightly warmer than it would have been otherwise, making for an early start to planting out.

Luckily, I have a lovely husband who would do anything for a quiet life, so I only had to spend two days there complaining about it before he finished the job off for me. He definitely earned his dinner that night.

So now that the two big beds are all covered and beautiful looking, I just need the snow and ice to come and break up some of the larger clods for me. I haven’t decided yet if I will dig it in or just plant directly in to it, but we will see how I feel later in the year. Some areas will be covered with weed membrane and sow through to reduce my weeding requirements – crops like pumpkins and squash seem to like this quite a lot – so they won’t need so much digging in as the worms will drag it all down in to the soil for me.

I had hoped to go “no-dig” this year, but the sheer amount of compost we would need every year is unrealistic for us so perhaps maybe on one bed and use the other bed as a pumpkin and flower patch? I suppose time will tell!

But doesn’t it look so pretty?!

Happy Christmas All!

So the shed roof is now watertight and has been tested by our first two day downpour, and the chickens are spending most of the day sleeping and hiding from the mud.

Little do they know that Cluckingham Palace V3 is soon to be coming their way!

The ratty ba*ds have been chewing through the floor or their coop and have made themselves a lovely warm nest for over the winter with an unlimited supply of food. Great for them, not for everyone else.

So this afternoon Mr T and I will be off to get something to stop that…. a house on stilts!
I know they will still get in to the coop, but hopefully it will reduce one of the rodents luxuries – a nice warm bed.

 Plus, hopefully we will have less egg-loss if they cant carry them away down the ladder…. but we will see!

I will update with photos when we manage to get it home and up… I know I can’t wait!

Demolition Derby

I do love my new husband, and there are not many things I won’t do for him. However climbing up on a rickety old roof to look at a rotten bit of wood that he’s just been smacking with a crowbar is one step too far.

I have always been the office girl. I google the best places to find things and then send him on a mission to collect the lovingly sourced hunks of plywood and roof felt. Bet he’s glad he settled for me, eh?

I am terrified of heights, I’m not going to lie. So I always knew that the roof repairs would have to wait until the light of my life felt energetic. Or until he got bored of me saying how ‘cold the allotment is’ and how ‘lovely it would be to be able to have a cup of tea in the dry’.

Well yesterday was finally that day.

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I finished work a little early so I managed to get there just as the sun was going down (4pm?! Christmas is coming…) and found MrT up a ladder ripping bits of roof off.

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He had already managed to get the old rotten sheets off and cut himself on the old felt, so all was going well.

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Until he found this.

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“Come up and have a look” he said.
“Don’t worry, its safe” he said.

So I climbed up the ladder and stood on a beam, and I am telling you now – That wasn’t safe.

So I swiftly climbed back down and watched him adoringly, giving helpful advice like ‘be careful’ and ‘don’t fall off’.

I was on screw patrol, and would pass up hardware and hunks of wood salvaged from the old chicken run so that he could add a few more beams to the ever wobblier roof. And he was doing really well until it got so dark he couldn’t see the ground!

So ‘we’ gave up for the night and went home for chicken nuggets. Success!

He is back up there today (bless his little heart) to board out the roof and get it as secure as possible.

It’ll probably be down to me to felt it tomorrow since the days are so short now, but hopefully I will be a bit less of a cry baby about it when I can’t see the ground through the cracks in the beams I am standing on!

Am I in a time warp?

I don’t know what is going on, but I am still harvesting tomatoes in November?!

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Even the strawberries are still trying to squeeze the last drops from summer. I don’t hold out hope for any edible fruit, but its nice to still have some flowers around the plot when everything else is browning off.

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Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news though this week.

My beautiful Sue, ruler of the roost and queen of the coop has left us. I sadly found her on Saturday morning and it seems she has been a meal for some evil critter who made it through the coop door. Obviously the other ladies were very upset so it’s not been a nice weekend for us. 

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It has taken the critters over a year and a half to figure it out though, so hopefully whatever new fortifications I can create will keep them out for another year.

I have a plan this weekend to spend the day down there doing lots of chores and having a relax, so hopefully I will have lots of things to show you soon!

 

 

Phew! Now that’s over with…

As many of you know, I have been manically busy getting ready for my wedding to Mr T…

I am now happy to report that we are now Mr and Mrs T!

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I am very happy about this of course, but I am even more happy because it means no more evenings sat in the house making bouquets and invites and decorations.

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Although our wedding was pretty “allotment-ified”, so I suppose I can share some of my photos on here. Not that I need an excuse, hey!

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No matter how sad I am that it is over, it does mean more free time – YAY!

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We jetted off for a lovely honeymoon in the Maldives in the stunning resort of Furaveri (https://www.furaveri.com) and we’ve now come back down to earth with a bang.

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Its cold, wet and dark here now so I won’t have much to tell you about crops wise (except maybe some broccoli!) but I do hope to get some of the ‘big jobs’ done. This means getting the potting shed reasonably watertight, refelting the conservatory and hopefully getting some fruit bushes in the ground.

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My little Bantys have grown up well and are now bossing around my big hens.

Unfortunately, while we were away, it would seem that a weasel or other such horrible critter has gotten in to my quail hutch and stolen all of my ladies away in the night. We found the scattering of feathers last night when we got home and it would seem that the ‘babysitters’ found they were gone on Monday morning.
Evil little blighters.
Looks like more fortifications will be needed for next year.

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When I manage to make it up in the daylight – maybe the weekend- I will update you all on how many of my plants have survived my absence. Lets all keep our fingers crossed!

Love,
Mrs T!

 

 

The ‘Girls’ are growing up!

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You might remember that I few weeks ago I got some tiny little babies to join my flock, well now they are big and bold enough to join the big birds!

They’ve been hanging out in a “pen-within-a-pen” for the last few weeks and have gotten used to our bigger girls so one night last week me and Mr T spent a very tiring half hour moving all of my babies on to their big girl bed.

They LOVE it.

Although what they love even more is that they can sit on things much to small for the grown-ups, and seem o like lording it over them watching the world go by!

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Hmmm…….

I have a feeling “SHE” may be “HE” and Jimmy Hendrix is actually just ‘Jimmy’!

I suppose we will see in a few weeks time if we hear crowing!

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The Phantom Tomato Bug…?

I have been away quite a bit recently so haven’t bee able to update on here as much as I would like but here a few photos of the current growth spurts…

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But what on earth is going on here?!

marigoldMy poor marigolds were planted as a sacrificial tomato protector, but they seem to have some sort of white bug infestation…

I’m going to go and have a good google and see if I can find out what these are. Anyone else have any ideas?

The Goose Roost Sprung A Leek!

I am so busy over the next few weeks that I thought I would spend my Sunday dong some ab-muscle-blasting pulling up some of the weeds that have sprung up on the plot. That’s not quite all that happened though…

I am very pleased with the haul so far this year. The toms were ripening, the beans swelling, and look!

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I am not entirely sure what it is, as it is just labelled “winter squash”. I think I may have picked it a bit early but I was too excited and it wasn’t getting any bigger so I will try roasting it later in the week.

I met a lovely old gentleman who had some leek plants for sale, and spent a long time speaking to him about the best way of growing them and also about what else I can do around the plot. He was so knowledgeable and even gave me his email address so that I can run by him any queries I may have.

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I also got a free load of winter brassicas… he was so adorable – like a little garden Yoda. 

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I am going to make up my plot plan for winter 2018/spring 2019 one evening this week and send it across to him for approval, but apparently my first job is to get my Christmas Spuds in! That’s going to be Wednesdays job I reckon!

He gave me a little factsheet, beautifully handwritten with instructions on how to plant my leeks up, so I set to work.

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It was one of the hottest days of the year, but he said I needed to dig a trench so dig a trench I did. I did not, however, bank on him giving me almost double to amount of leeks he said he would, resulting in a total of 3 trenches and some spare baby leeks. I was sweating buckets and about keeled over from the work but I got there… and dug up some brambles whilst I was at it!

37670607_497836490660797_8529974434776219648_nI planted my little baby leeks the length of my dibber (broken wooden mallet!) apart, placed them in the holes and the watered them in. No firming or anything as apparently that how you get mud in your dinner!

So rather than just stop there, I thought I had better get the brassicas in…

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Then the 3 different types of kale…

 

Then thinned my apples and watered everything…

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Then picked some cucumbers from the triffids in the greenhouse….

By which time it was 8.30pm and I had not eaten since breakfast! Oh how time flies when having a ball!

My nails no longer look so pretty though and I am at a wedding over the weekend so I went home to scrub myself as clean as possible with a stiff brush and some Swarfega!