A Man’s Work is Never Done

So after tidying up the shelves and nearly splattering my finger everywhere, I’m not allowed to do any more work on the potting shed.

His Stern Face

MrT had another day off today so he has been building ther framework for the roof…

Yay!

It looks like its going to be something now!

It is looking pretty ace if I do say so myself. I’m rather proud of my fella and his ‘Mad DIY Skillz’.

Since my last post, I have managed to find a load of laminated glass going free – just had to pay £15 for a man in a van to transport the stuff. Its super thick, and even though a couple of panes are cracked the lamination means that they are still intact and can be used for the roof. The one downside is that they are SUPER heavy so will need a shedload of support.
AND we need to find some way of cutting them down or else we would have had one steep roof apex!
Anybody got any recommendations of how to cut it without power, heat, or a stable surface to work on? No, I thought not…

Its looking pretty good in there now though, so whilst he was doing that I decided to have a go at clearing up a bit. When MrT suddenly gave me an excited shout though I had to come and see what he had found.

Time Team Styl-ee

Look! A fully functional – and rather beautiful – path! It was covered by a hell of a lot of mud and muck but now that its dug out and has been rained on a bit it looks amazing. Plus there’s a few lovely steps that lead up to my orchard. Yet another awesome gift from the previous tenant.

So pretty… or they will be soon!

Child Labour = Easy Allotmenting

We had some little visitors today.

My favourite niece and nephews came to see the chickies and give me a hand sowing some sunflowers for the summer.

Child labour

The good thing is, when you tell a kid that chickens will love them more if they let them eat weeds, they suddenly like to help do the chores! I think got through about 3 barrows. Very proud of these little ones.

Also mighty pleased with the new list of potential chicken names thought up by the niece when she was trying to skive off weeding duties.

‘chicken food’ collecting

Another nice little treat came in the form of MrT having an early finish. He moved my lawn, did some more sawing for the potting shed and even managed to say hello to his long-suffering family! I’m sure they only get to see him at Christmas!

Off to mow…

I did treat him to a nice beer and a bonfire for all of his troubles, so he cheered up a little by the end of the night.

Crabbies – The ultimate payment for ‘Dad-min’

Men like burning stuff.

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?!

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.

46507425_502062003639299_4901241658277888000_n

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.

46511110_10157049513638296_6064684947996672000_n

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

46516236_212071659688835_8823240200520990720_n

Until he found this.

46634213_302070660643857_7364446496780976128_n

“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!

Summertime update

Spent a lovely few hours down the plot with MrT this evening.

Its been super busy recently with our friends’ wedding coming up but thought i would show you all how its going!

Starting with the sunflowers for the top table display

My lemon cucumbers are looking fab…

And make great additions to drinks!

The greenhouse is starting to look like a forest

And the courgettes have gone from tiny to huge in a few days

The pumpkins are like triffids in the sun

But the onions are as big as they are going to get i think

I plaited them up so that i could hang them to dry in the sun without the Rottie Beasts eating them all!

Lots of planting over the next few weeks to try and get the winter greens in, so i will keep you all in the loop when i can.

So proud of 2018 so far, even if i have spent most of the time and effort working “behind the seens” on the bramble control situation!

Think i deserve that cider…

Say hello to my little friend…!

So today my friend came to The Goose Roost to help out and get her little patch of land ready for her wedding flowers.

Meet Rachel!

We had to check the chicken run before doing anything else, as unfortunately two doors down lost 4 overnight to MrFox and had to dispatch another thanks to a bitten leg and foot. Luckily ours are safe, but i will pop back when MrT gets back tonight (11pm ish) and take the dogs up to wee everywhere…hopefully that’ll keep them at bay!

He has got babies living on the wasteland (the fox not MrT!) so i dont blame him for being hungry, but i do wish they would only take what they eat, not kill several!

But anyway…back to our wedding workout. The area was pretty clear. It wasn’t all that great to look at at first though!

Her little area!

Rach is having a beautiful cobalt blue and sunflower wedding, so we want to make sure that the flower heads are ready for the end of July!

What she doesn’t use of this plot will be grassed over to create a lovely seating area for the summer, and to also keep the weeds down for another year until we cultivate it.

Half way through

We arrived at about 3pm to gloom and grey clouds, but luckily the weather stayed dry for us.

We managed to get it all dug over in about 2.5 hours and ready to rake and sow grass seeds later in the week.

Done!

Shes a good grafter and we had a good natter while we did it! Even managed time to have a luke-warm cup of hot chocolate. I must remember to take mugs next time….

Sowing sunflowers

Next stop was to pull up the few weeds in the greenhouse and sow the seeds. While she did her sunflowers (several varieties and all gorgeous!) I sowed some marigold seeds. Its way too cold this year to sow them direct, plus it means that we will know what is a plant and what is a weed. Thats always a bonus.

Very technical

I heard that marigolds are good to distract nasty bugs from eating you veg, so hopefully they will be around every bed this season. I had awful problems with ‘friends’ last year.

Look at those strawberries though…

It was Rach’s first time planting anything really, so a good opportunity to sound like i know what I’m talking about. In actual fact i just pulled up weeds and filled up a watering can, but we wont tell her that will we?

All in!

How beautiful is this looking!

I can’t wait to see things staring to sprout. We saved some seeds to sow more in a week or two so hopefully at least something will have flowers on for The Big Day.

Ready to be raked

Productive afternoon to say the least!

Makes me want to paint over that red though…..

When it rains, it pours

Cold and wet day down the lottie today, but the hens were happy and the blossom is out!

Rosmary flowers

Apple blossom

Cherry blossom

Strawberry flowers

Pear blossom

Strawberrys

The hens were treated to another hay bale today to try and soak up some of the rain. The old stuff i dug out i put around my berry canes. Hopefully this will be a wonderful manure for them! I love raspberries and am hoping for my first home-grown crop this year.

Hopefully a bumper crop!

The rain them started belting down, but as i was already up there i wanted to finish up. I covered much of the top end of the bed in weed membrane as the same sun that has helped my plants grow has also helped the weeds, and i wont have time to get it all perfectly dug over like the spud bed.

Weed membrane, trying to battle nettles!

All home and clean now, but my boots have seen better days! Poor things have got so many holes in now, they definately arent waterproof any more!

Ready for a nap!

Back off up there tomorrow to get some sunflowers in for my friends wedding… lets hope its drier!

Have you heard my under construction joke? It’s not done yet.

Two days off in a week, means two demolition/fire/destruction/smashing jobs done in a week.

I should have known really when the sledgehammer ended up in the boot of the car that something dramatic was about to happen.

This ‘building’, or ricketty pile of bricks, is built in the most inconvenient place in the allotment. It blocks access to a good 20sqm of space which could otherwise be useful.

45

Very inconvenient old walls

I mentioned my wish to have this *eventually* removed to MrT a while ago.

So while I was planting my spuds, MrT was making some smashing and grunting noises around the back of my greenhouse. I would have been worried if I couldn’t hear his grumbles.

0213

Smashing away

 

He didn’t move anything, he just wacked it.

 

0220

Gone!

We did, however, find out that those walls were supporting my greenhouse… Bugger. Now thats got to come down to as all of the wood is rotten and its being held up by its shelving!

Soon enough he had got it all down and stacked up the bricks nice and neatly while I finished putting my spuds in.

Just out of curiosity, who mounds theirs up and who doesn’t?

I just dig a hole, push my shovel forwards so that it makes a deeper hole, drop my spud in and then removed the spade and fill in the hole.
I don’t bother mounding them up unless a spud sticks above the surface and always seem to get as much of a crop as everyone else.
I also don’t faff about with worrying which are First, Second or Main crops. I just plonk them all in and harvest them when the plant tells me they need harvesting.

0217

Spuds are in

I have put 6 rows in, some of red King Edwards and some of Maris Pipers. I am waiting on the complaints and criticisms of the other plot holders on my site about my lack of lines and mounds, but to be honest the less work the better.

At least I got to use my adorable signs that I bought in the sales last year!

Wilkos Signs